Cohesive fire management within an uncertain environment: A review of risk handling and decision support systems

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Abilio Pereira Pacheco
João Claro
de Neufville,R
José Coelho Rodrigues
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Wildfire management has been struggling in recent years with escalating devastation, expenditures, and complexity. Given the copious factors involved and the complexity of their interactions, uncertainty in the outcomes is a prominent feature of wildfire management strategies, at both policy and operational levels. Improvements in risk handling and in risk-based decision support tools have therefore a key role in addressing these challenges. In this paper, we review key systems created to support wildfire management decision-making at different levels and scales, and describe their evolution from an initial focus on landscape-level fire growth simulation and burn probability assessment, to the incorporation of exposure and economic loss potential (allowing the translation of ignition likelihood, fire environment terrain, fuels, and weather and suppression efficacy into potential fire effects), the integration with forest management and planning, and more recently, to developments in the assessment of values at risk, including real-time assessment. This evolution is linked to a progressive widening of the scope of usage of these systems, from an initial more limited application to risk assessment, to the subsequent inclusion of functionality enabling their Utilization in the context of risk management, and more recently, to their explicit casting in the broader societal context of risks and decisions, from a risk governance perspective. This joint evolution can be seen as the result of a simultaneous pull from methodological progresses in risk handling, and push from technological progress in wildfire management decision support tool, as well as more broadly in computational power. We identify the key benefits and challenges in the development and adoption of these systems, as well as future plausible research trends.