Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Economics

Committee Chair

Derek Kellenberg

Commitee Members

Douglas Dalenberg, David Patterson


Wildfire, Economics, Wildfire Economics, Wildland Urban Interface, Wildfire Suppression, Wildfire Spending


University of Montana

Subject Categories



We examine the relationship between U.S. wildfire resource assignments and fire proximity to inhabited areas. Climate change and previous vegetation buildup have enabled more severe fire seasons, while more structures are being developed near vegetated, wildland areas. These changes have contributed to a steep increase in the overall cost of wildfire management, the annual costs of which regularly rise into the billions (NIFC, 2021). Still, the extent to which each driver of suppression costs contributes to the increase in spending is not entirely understood. Previous studies have shown that more suppression resources are allocated to fires near inhabited areas, and it is commonly thought that structure growth into wildland areas is a leading cause of suppression cost increases (USDA OIG, 2006). In this paper, we find that proximity to the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) influences resource allocation decisions, with a greater influence on resource types that engage in structure protection. We find evidence that suggests for many resources the influence of WUI proximity on allocation decisions has changed over time. Fire distance to WUI areas appeared to be less influential to resource allocation counts in later years but remains important. WUI expansion is likely to continue to increase fire management costs in the future.

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