Date of Award
Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)
City and Regional Planning
Dr. Caitlin Dyckman
Dr. Mickey Lauria
This research aimed to investigate a possible link between the land use choices and regulations of three communities and the average per-acre costs of fire control operations for three recent wildfires. The question about the connections between land use decisions and regulations was one that had yet to be addressed in the literature.
The 2008 Humboldt Complex fire in Butte County, California, 2007 Castle Rock Complex fire in Blaine County, Idaho, and the 2006 South Fork Complex Fire in Valley County, Idaho were chosen as cases to test the hypothesis that a lack of coordination between governments on land use decisions and regulations, coupled with the absence of integration of wildland fire management plans and a standard criteria for wildfire risk assessment in their development guidelines and codes, increased control costs encountered during and after fires in the communities. The cases were selected because they met the criteria established for comparison by the project design, and the average per-acre cost of wildfire control for the three cases varied significantly; with the South Fork Complex fire costing less than $200 dollars an acre for control whereas the Humboldt Complex fire costs over $800 per acre to control.
Charles Ragin’s Comparative Method was the chosen method for the qualitative assessment. Two considerations led to this choice. First, the existence of only three cases with limited sources of data constrained the methods available for analysis, and second, assumptions were necessary to compare the wildfire behavior of the three events and one of the strengths of the Comparative Method was that it accommodated the assumptions to facilitate comparisons.
Using Ragin’s QCA software, the identified causal factors that were culled from the case-specific data were entered into bi-variate truth tables as independent variables with the dependent variable as average per acre cost of control. The bi-variate truth tables were then minimized using Boolean algebra to isolate causal factors as prime implicants that contributed to the disparate costs for control in the three wildfires.
A reduced Boolean expression that indicated presence of prime implicants would have identified the causal combinations that influenced the variance in the per-acre costs to control the three wildfires. However, multiple combinations of independent variable were tested, but after multiple iterations, prime implicants, that suggested a connection between differences in land use and policies and the per acre fire control costs of the three cases, were not identified.
Therefore, this analysis of the three cases did not support the stated hypothesis that a lack of coordination between governments on land use policies and decisions coupled with the absence of integration of wildland fire management plans and a standard criteria for wildfire risk assessment in the development guidelines increased control costs encountered during and after the wildfires. However, the question posed as a basis for this research merits further research and the three cases could be examined further to determine if a link between land use and regulations and per-acre wildfire control costs exist, and the comparison of the communities revealed interesting insights into how land uses and the decisions of communities increased the costs of control for the three fires that were examined.
Barnwell, John Russell, "How Do Local Land Use Decisions Influence the Costs of Wildfire Control in the American West?" (2010). Master of City and Regional Planning Terminal Projects. 30.