Funded Projects

Impacts of COVID-19 on the Prescribed Fires Usage

Funded March 2021
Submitted by Jun Zhuang
Project Team
portrait of Zhuang
Jun Zhuang
Industrial and Systems Engineering
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Description
Wildfires have become a common phenomenon that cause deaths and injuries, damage to property, inconvenience, and associated indirect losses to the society. Different methods and efforts have been employed to reduce the frequency and intensity of the damages caused by wildfires, one popular option of which is implementing prescribed fires. Over 40 million acres of prescribed fires have been conducted in the U.S. since 2003, with the number conducted exponentially increased by approximately 2,500% from 2014 (17,044) to 2018 (450,335). Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, much less Prescribed fires were conducted in 2020 for safety reasons (e.g., avoid physical contacts among fire managers, and to minimize the potential for smoke to aggravate symptoms of COVID-19). This goal of this project is to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prescribed fires usage for mitigating wildfires. We will address two research questions: (a) Compared to previous years, how much less prescribed fires were conducted during COVID-19 pandemic? And (b) what are the short-run and long-run impacts to the community, environment, and related wildfires due to such reduction of prescribed fires during COVID-19? To answer those research questions, we plan to: (a) collect spatial and temporal data related to wildfire and prescribed fires; (b) collect data related to government restrictions and prescribed fire policies during COVID-19; and (c) analyze the correlation and causality among those factors in a few case studies (e.g., California, Oregon). This project builds on the PI's previous work on fire management (funded by National Fire Protection Association), disaster management (funded by NSF), risk analysis, game theory, and resource allocation models. If successful, this project would generate valuable preliminary results which would lead to a large proposal later to NSF, NFPA, and/or USDA on better planning prescribed fires usage for mitigating wildfires in a post-COVID-19 world.

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