Fire Ecology, 2013
Volume 9, Issue 3
Unauthorized Firesetting as Socioecological Disturbance: A Spatiotemporal Analysis of Incendiary Wildfires in Georgia, USA, 1987-2010
Author: Michael R. Coughlan
I analyzed the spatiotemporal patterning of intentional, unauthorized landscape fires in the state of Georgia, USA, for the years 1987 through 2010 with the aim of delineating socioecological constraints on and firesetter preferences for the timing and placement of ignitions. Unauthorized fires represent complex phenomena through which actors compete over social and ecological outcomes that transcend the spatiotemporal confines of individual fires themselves. Current classificatory systems define unauthorized firesetting behavior as irrational, destructive, and malicious. Because landscape fires cause both positive and negative consequences for biological diversity and ecosystems services, perceived costs and benefits of fires are contestable and relative to point of view. The locational and temporal patterns of unauthorized landscape fires examined in this study do not show firesetter preferences for maximizing damage to landscapes. Instead, unauthorized fires in Georgia potentially contribute to the maintenance of landscapes adapted to frequent, dormant- and early growingseason fire regimes.