Publication Details

What does wildfire risk mean to the public?

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Year Published

2006

Publication

In: McCaffrey, S.M., tech. ed. The public and wildland fire management: social science findings for managers. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 33-45.

Abstract

Public risk perception that managers may see as inappropriately low may not necessarily be a result of poor understanding but instead may be a result of self-selection and of mental balancing of benefits and risk. This study highlights the complexity of factors considered when members of the public assess wildfire risk including environmental preconditions, ignition sources, possible negative outcomes, risk tolerance, and benefits associated with exposure. Although findings indicate that fire risk information is being communicated effectively, they also suggest that efforts focused only on raising risk perception may be misdirected. Rather than emphasizing risk, managers may instead want to focus on changing the perceived balance of risk and benefits?showing how efforts to decrease wildfire risk add to rather than subtract from the perceived benefits of living in fire-prone environments. In addition, given the variability in what individuals consider in determining "wildfire risk," managers may want to clearly define the definition of wildfire risk they are using, including timeframe, area extent, and specific type of damage.

Keywords

communication; fuels treatments; defensible space; wildfire management; social acceptance; education; wildland urban interface

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Citation

McCaffrey, Sarah. 2006. What does wildfire risk mean to the public?. In: McCaffrey, S.M., tech. ed. The public and wildland fire management: social science findings for managers. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-1. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 33-45.

Last updated on: January 17, 2007