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Intervention and Impact: the Human Element of the 2016 Southern Appalachian Wildfires
1:40 PM - 2:00 PM
Tue Nov 28, 2017
Citron North


Authors: Karen Lee Abt; Cara Meghan Downes; Shan Liu; Natasha James; Jeff Prestemon;

A confluence of human and environmental factors triggered the Oct-Dec 2016 firestorm in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. More than 50 significant fire events resulted in loss of homes, businesses, and lives, as well as expenditures of more than $150 million in suppression costs alone. The fall drought, in combination with changes in forest and fire management over recent decades, has altered available fuels, fuel breaks, and treatment possibilities. A concurrent increase in the number of people living in the wildland urban interface and fire-prone landscapes has contributed to an increase in the human costs of wildfires in terms of loss of life and property damage. Human population growth in fire-prone areas increases the costs of prevention, suppression, and the impact of significant fire events. We quantify and monetize, to the extent possible, the tradeoffs in fuels management, prescribed fire, prevention, interface development, suppression expenditures, structural losses, morbidity and mortality, health impacts and expenditures, infrastructure losses, and regional economic costs and losses. We also explore the links between the pre-fire actions and expenditures, and the impacts of expenditures on the local economies during and after the wildfires.

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