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Air Attack Against Wildfires

Air Attack Against Wildfires: Understanding U.S. Forest Service Requirements for Large Aircraft

Edward G. Keating
Andrew R. Morral
Carter C. Price
Dulani Woods
Daniel M. Norton
Christina Panis
Evan Saltzman
Ricardo Sanchez
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 140
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  • Book Info
    Air Attack Against Wildfires
    Book Description:

    A RAND study sought to help the U.S. Forest Service determine the composition of a fleet of airtankers, scoopers, and helicopters that would minimize the total social costs of wildfires, including the cost of large fires and aircraft costs. The research team developed two models to estimate the social cost–minimizing portfolios of firefighting aircraft. Both models favored a fleet dominated by scoopers for the prevention of large fires.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-7972-5
    Subjects: Technology, History, Environmental Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
    Andrew Morral
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has an aging fleet of contracted fixed-wing airtankers to assist in fighting wildfires. Tragically, there were two fatal crashes of Forest Service–contracted airtankers in 2002. On June 17, 2002, a C-130A experienced an in-flight breakup initiated by the separation of the right wing, followed by the separation of the left wing, while executing a fire retardant drop over a forest fire near Walker, California. All three flight crewmembers were killed, and the airplane was destroyed. On July 18, 2002, a Forest Service–contracted P4Y aircraft experienced an...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Background
    (pp. 7-12)

    Wildland fires are among nature’s most terrifying and dangerous events. At the same time, periodic wildland fires are a natural and beneficial part of the ecosystem in much of the country. Many species of flora and fauna rely on episodic wildfire as part of their regenerative cycle (see, e.g., Agee, 1989; Servis and Boucher, 1999). Nevertheless, because fires threaten property, public health, and forest resources, there is a strong interest in preventing and suppressing them. Policymakers therefore face difficult choices about how, whether, and to what extent to fight wildland fires that break out.

    There are several ways to contain...

  11. CHAPTER THREE The Costs of Large Fires
    (pp. 13-30)

    Our initial attack analysis had two key input parameters. The first, the subject of this chapter, was the costs of large fires,C_{F}(f).¹ The second, the subject of the next chapter, was the cost of aviation,C_{A}(a). A Ultimately, our objective was to find the mix of aviation assets that would minimize the total social costs of wildfires, including cost of large fires and the cost of large aircraft,C_{F}(f(a)) + C_{A}(a). Chapters Five and Six explore these options using the National Model and the Local Resources Model, respectively. If a large fire were quite costly, we would ascribe...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR The Costs of Large Aircraft
    (pp. 31-40)

    Chapter Three estimated the costs of large fires and, hence, the benefits of successful initial attack. This chapter focuses on the life-cycle costs of large aircraft,C_{A}(a). A Specifically, we estimated annualized aircraft costs or the expected annual payment associated with operating each of several types of large aircraft. Our estimates are broad enough to represent the expected costs under a range of ownership structures, including aircraft owned and contracted by the Forest Service. This analysis does not make recommendations about whether the Forest Service should own or contract for its firefighting aircraft.

    Per the Forest Service’s direction, the...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE The RAND National Model
    (pp. 41-66)

    As discussed in the Chapter One, we use two different but complementary approaches to estimate the social cost–minimizing portfolio of Forest Service initial attack aircraft. In this chapter, we present the RAND National Model, which uses Forest Service data to develop a fire simulation and then estimates the portfolio of aircraft that would minimize the total cost of wildfires, including cost of large fires (Chapter Three) and cost of aircraft (Chapter Four).

    The next chapter, Chapter Six, presents the Local Resources Model. The Local Resources Model has a similar objective as the National Model, but it uses FPA’s simulated...

  14. CHAPTER SIX The RAND Local Resources Model
    (pp. 67-84)

    Like the National Model, the Local Resources Model systematically analyzes different aircraft combinations and basing options, identifying the fleet mix that minimizes total social costs,C_{F}(f(a)) + C_{A}(a). However, unlike the National Model, the Local Resources Model’s characterization off(a)is built on fire season, ground resources, and containment estimates generated by the FPA system. In addition, the Local Resources Model allows the differential social costs of fires,C_{F}(f), F to vary by location.

    FPA is a Forest Service system designed to assist decisionmakers in resource allocation choices. FPA’s traditional focus has been at the local Forest Service Fire Planning...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 85-90)

    The two models we developed to assess the mix of large aircraft that would optimize society’s returns on investment in Forest Service initial attack capabilities provided a frustratingly broad range of answers—from 18 large aircraft in the Local Resources Model to 56 large aircraft in the National Model GACC-restricted variant (see Table 7.1).¹

    As Table 7.1 shows, the National Model suggests an increase in the number of scoopers (from 40 to 43) when water goes from efficacy parity with retardant to being half as effective. Further, the National Model again recommends 43 scoopers when water is one-quarter as effective...

  16. Appendix A. Equations Used to Construct High and Low Fire Cost Estimates
    (pp. 91-98)
  17. Appendix B. Trends in Fire Aviation Demand Through 2030
    (pp. 99-104)
  18. References
    (pp. 105-114)