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Table 1 Fundamental differences between wildfire and prescribed fire science practice and application

From: Prescribed fire science: the case for a refined research agenda

Factor Wildfire Prescribed fire
Planning horizon Days to weeks Weeks to years; multiple years to decades
Scale at which research is applied Hundreds to many thousands of hectares Sub-meter to ~5000 ha
Primary motivation for science use and application Safety of human life, property, and natural resource values Meeting resource objectives without disrupting human life, property
Post-fire effects actions and evaluation Rehabilitation where needed, immediate, opportunistically afterwards Observation, immediate, then following monitoring plans
Response to above evaluation Rehabilitation where needed Refinement of prescribed burning plan, adaptive management, reapplication when appropriate
Study designs Opportunistic, mostly lacking pre-fire data, non-replicated Pre-fire and control data often incorporated in fire effects evaluation, often replicable
Horizon for experimental research Limited: opportunistic, often hindered by logistical hurdles, lack of access during fire; single event Integrated: intentional planning for desired fire behavior and effects; multiple and repeated events (i.e., potential for replication in time and space)
Scientific expertise directly involved in decision-making Fire behavior, meteorology, smoke science, fuels management Fire behavior, fire ecology, fire history, social sciences, smoke science, soil and watershed science, meteorology, fuels management