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Economic analysis of bushfire management programs: a Western Australian perspective
Bushfires can cause significant damage to ecosystems, life and property, and bushfire events that do not involve people and property are becoming rare. In order to minimise bushfires damages, resources are drawn from a pool of limited human and financial resources to be used in fire management activities. The objective for society is to allocate the total resources used for fire management to achieve the most efficient outcome in terms of costs and damages avoided, and thus maximise social welfare. Improved understanding and comprehensive appraisals of bushfire costs and benefits are needed in order to devise fire mitigation and management programs that optimally allocate resources and express informed, evidence-based judgements about trade-offs between available options. The aim of this project is to provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of alternative bushfire management programs in Western Australia (WA) in order to determine the optimal allocation of scarce resources for bushfire management.
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Bushfire suppression capacity and the use of technology in bushfire management have greatly increased, but the frequency of disastrous fires appears to follow an increasing trend. An increase in the number of extreme weather days owing to climate change could enhance this tendency. Fire strategies that have sought to respond to the increasing bushfire threat with greater suppression capacity do not appear to solve the problem of catastrophic bushfires. Australia is currently in a difficult position, where suppression costs could continue to escalate while bushfire management becomes less effective. Although extreme bushfire events are rare, they are often impossible to control and are the cause of most fire costs and losses. These devastating fires practically defeat the basic principle of fire protection. Hence, there is a need for sound analyses of alternative fire management options to achieve efficient outcomes in a context of increasing economic, technical, climatic and urban development complexities.