Current Forestry Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 20–40 | Cite as

Contain and Control: Wildfire Suppression Effectiveness at Incidents and Across Landscapes

  • Matt P. PlucinskiEmail author
Fire Science and Management (ME Alexander, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Fire Science and Management


Purpose of Review

Containing and controlling wildfire incidents is one of the main functions of fire management. Understanding how this can be done effectively and efficiently informs many of the preparatory activities undertaken by fire management agencies to limit the impact of wildfires. This second article within a two-part series summarizing the current understanding of wildfire suppression effectiveness details research undertaken at incident and landscape scales and discusses their motivations and implications. The series is concluded with a discussion of the major suppression effectiveness knowledge gaps at all scales with suggestions for addressing them.

Recent Findings

Research across incidents has been undertaken as case studies of specific events and economic analyses of productivity during the containment of large fires. Some recent case studies have demonstrated the benefits of fuel management for suppression effectiveness, while economic analyses have identified the contributions of different resource types to containment and found that productivity models developed using non-wildfire data grossly overpredict operational productivity. Research at the landscape scale has identified the variables important for fire outcomes, such as initial attack success and the effectiveness of fuel management programs, and has also identified the benefits of suppression policy changes using long-term datasets.


There are many ways that wildfire suppression effectiveness can be defined and measured. These depend on the scale and purpose that they are considered. Suppression effectiveness evaluation is challenging at most scales as it is can be undertaken for a range of objectives, is affected by many dynamic broad ranging variables, and because data is difficult to acquire. As a result, there are still many gaps in our understanding and new methods are required to capture the data required to fill these.


Firefighting Fire containment Fire management Incident response 



The author is thankful for the knowledge he has gained from the many operational firefighters and fire managers that he has worked with over the years, particularly his volunteer colleagues who continue to educate and inspire him. Wesley Page, Keith Stockmann, Matthew Thompson (US Forest Service), Jim Gould (CSIRO), and Steven Hvenegaard (FPInnovations Wildfire Operations) and Marty Alexander (Fire Science and Management Section Editor) provided helpful suggestions on draft versions of the manuscript.

Funding Information

This work has been funded by CSIRO.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bushfire Behaviour and RisksCSIRO Land and Water, Black Mountain LaboratoriesCanberraAustralia

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