Homeowner perspectives on fire hazard, responsibility, and management strategies at the wildland-urban interface

  • Winter G
  • Fried J
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Abstract

Following a survey of forest homeowners in rural Michigan to assess the value of reducing the risk of damage from wildfires at the wildland-urban interface, focus group discussions were conducted with a subset of survey participants to learn about their perceptions concerning specific components of fire hazard (e.g., how fires start, fire control, fire damage), their understanding of how fire protection responsibility is allocated between government and individuals, and their under standing of and preferences for alternative fire management strategies. Focus-group data were analyzed using a framework based on behavioral economics and psychometric models of risk. Attributes associated with the fire risk help explain the relative popularity of different fire protection strategies. Because participants consider forest fires inherently uncontrollable, and the resulting damage essentially random, they are only weakly supportive of investments in firefighting infrastructure, unlikely to take all possible steps to safeguard their own properties, and resolute in their emphasis on solutions that reduce the number of fire ignitions. Their universally negative perceptions of prescribed fire may ultimately preclude its use as a risk management tool in Michigan's wildland-urban interface forests.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Fire prevention
  • Prescribed fire

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Authors

  • Greg Winter

  • Jeremy S. Fried

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