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A synthesis of post-fire Burned Area Reports from 1972 to 2009 for western US Forest Service lands: trends in wildfire characteristics and post-fire stabilisation treatments and expenditures

Peter R. Robichaud A D , Hakjun Rhee B C and Sarah A. Lewis A

A US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Forestry Sciences Laboratory, 1221 South Main Street, Moscow, ID 83843, USA.
B Department of Forest Management, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.
C Present address: Department of Environment and Forest Resources, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Chungnam National University, 99 Daehak-ro, Yuseong-gu, Daejeon 305-764, South Korea.
D Corresponding author. Email: probichaud@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF13192
Submitted: 15 November 2013  Accepted: 19 May 2014   Published online: 4 September 2014


 
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Abstract

Over 1200 post-fire assessment and treatment implementation reports from four decades (1970s–2000s) of western US forest fires have been examined to identify decadal patterns in fire characteristics and the justifications and expenditures for the post-fire treatments. The main trends found were: (1) the area burned by wildfire increased over time and the rate of increase accelerated after 1990; (2) the proportions of burned area assessed as low, moderate and high burn severity likely have remained fairly constant over time, but the use of satellite imagery that began c. 2000 increased the resolution of burn severity assessments leading to an apparent decreased proportion of high burn severity during the 2000s; (3) treatment justifications reflected regional concerns (e.g. soil productivity in areas of timber harvest) and generally reflected increased human encroachment in the wildland–urban interface; (4) modifications to roads were the most frequently recommended post-fire treatment type; (5) seeding was the most frequently used land treatment, but declined in use over time; (6) use of post-fire agricultural straw mulch has steadily increased because of proven success; and (7) the greatest post-fire expenditures have been for land treatments applied over large areas to protect important resources (e.g. municipal water sources).

Additional keywords: BAER, Burned Area Emergency Response, erosion control, post-fire assessment, rehabilitation, treatment expenditure, values-at-risk.


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