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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Michael H. Belzer


Chapter 1 is concerned with the effect of public fire service quality on individual utility. I develop a theoretical model to account for fire risk as a function of socio-economic, housing, and spatial factors. I review relevant literature on certain inherent public fire service issues regarding technology and cost structure before I briefly discuss the importance of public fire service with regard to overall social welfare. Finally, I employ equity mapping in a case study to assess the effect of a budget cut on equity of fire service allocation in Detroit.

Chapter 2 examines whether socio-economic factors, various aspects of housing, and spatial features can explain differences in building fire risk across Detroit. Using a complete Detroit fire incidents data set for the years 2008-2012, matched by census tract to American Community Survey (ACS) data for the same period, I employ kernel density mapping and spatial regression techniques to address the research question. Estimations suggest a positive correlation between poverty and fire risk, especially with regard to intentional building fires. In the case of unintentional building fires, no such conclusion can be drawn easily. I find evidence for fire clustering and spillover effects.

Chapter 3 approaches the question of optimal fire station siting in Detroit from a welfare economics viewpoint. Therefore, I assess the effects of a decrease in public budget in 2012 on distributional equity. First, regression analysis is used to determine the effect on response time as an indicator of fire service quality. Second, I use various statistical measures to evaluate intra-city service distribution with respect to equality. Third, I develop a fire risk index and link it to service quality to determine need satisfaction. I find ambiguous effects on distributional equality, while there is strong evidence of the change in budget having a negative effect on equity interpreted as need.

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