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Table 3 Summary of the decision-making analysis on a simple, practical example: the 2014 Tivissa Fire, Spain. Real situation assessment (A), and two different fire suppression strategies considered by the incident managers of the fire: the defensive strategy (B), and the creative decision-making strategy that was finally applied (C)

From: Empowering strategic decision-making for wildfire management: avoiding the fear trap and creating a resilient landscape

(A) Situation assessment(B) Defensive strategy (attack with uncertainty)(C) Creative strategy applied (certain scenario)
Values at risk
(1) Tourist WUI area on the coast, young continuous forest pine (closed stand), water catchment area.
Emergency management
(2) Cannot attack polygon A directly (Fig. 4). Fire must be contained inside A. If fire gets into polygon B, then there is a big problem as B is a remote area. On the other side, D is the last polygon before the WUI area on the coast. Defending the WUI during the night would require all the resources and would potentially be unsuccessful and allow fire into B and C (having a large fire involving all areas and values, with risk of collapse).
Fire ecology management
(3) The ecosystem burning would regenerate very well (serotinous cones) and flanks probably would underburn a lot of stands, creating a better forest structure. A value to take into account is the possibility of creating a mosaic of open land with new regenerates on it. It would increase biodiversity of vegetation and fauna, and increase the resilience of future landscape. In fact, it would reduce the risk of fires on the 12 000 ha region by half. Since the area is habitat for eagle (Aquila fasciata Vieillot, 1822), an endangered species, opening the habitat and allowing a hunting ground for the eagle is a need to be considered.
(1) Focus on traditional at-risk-values approach: lives, property and environment.
(2) Stop the head fire and later deal with the remaining fire. If polygon A cannot be attacked directly, the initial attack fails. The fire is then deciding where resources should go to work. There is no strategic plan, no tactical approach, just operations to chase the flames threatening assets at risk.
(3) Since values at risk are in polygon D, the focus is on polygons A to D. The operation can succeed or fail depending on the speed of fire spread (Known Unknown; Fig. 3). Uncertainty increases and does not allow focus on the connection from A to B and A to C. Losing those polygons means that fire would generate a much larger emergency. However, tactics are maintained and the already allocated resources complete the maneuvers in unknown conditions.
(4) The only values that can be defended are the ones considered by the traditional values-at-risk approach.
(5) Easy collapse of the system.
(1) Strategy: Contain fire inside polygons A and D.
(2) The first night, there are no feasible opportunities to break the connection between A and D without losing resources. The fire service would deal with it the next day with the wind shift.
(3) The connection between A and B is set as the main priority from the start of the fire. It is a good window of opportunity; however, the window ends at sunrise when fire behavior is expected to get worse and become uncertain. This is a Known Known situation that would evolve to Known Unknown and would require a tactic change if the connection from A to B cannot be broken before morning.
(4) The fire spreading from A to C is expected to have the same behavior as from A to B. It will be a flank fire day and night. It is a Known Known but requires resources all day. Tactically, fire services should keep working to avoid an impact of fire on resources. If, instead, the fire is left unattended, then it could spread from C to B, which would be much wider and more resource demanding. Thus, it is important to control the fire to avoid collapse of resources in case the fire grows.
(5) Must accept the risk of losing A and D. It’s a Known Unknown situation at night, but if the fire does not get to D, it can then be controlled next morning.