Firewise findings: small actions lead to big changes over time

Blog Post created by michelesteinberg Employee on Aug 6, 2013

A newly released report by the Joint Fire Sciences Program has some exciting findings for Firewise advocates and those working with communities on wildfire mitigation. 

Researchers James Absher of the US Forest Service and Jerry Vaske and Katie Lyon with Colorado State University surveyed a sampling of households in 12 Colorado counties to find out more about residents' actions to become Firewise and the obstacles that they might face in doing so. They specifically identified factors that could predict whether a person who had not yet acted to make a home safer from wildfire would be likely to do so.

In spite of obstacles including a great diversity among people and communities requiring tailored messages, and resistance to some changes such as Firewise building retrofits, there were still three strong predictors of residents' likelihood of wildfire safety action. These three include:

  1. The resident has a strong sense of community, in a community where Firewise action is an accepted norm;
  2. The resident has already done some small action (like mowing or raking);
  3. The resident is receiving information that improves understanding of the effectiveness of Firewise actions

The study further points out that some identified obstacles to individual action, such as cost or complexity, can be overcome by the use of community-wide assistance such as a chipper program or help with retrofitting.

In the context of the Firewise Communities/USA recognition program, it was exciting to find that the study concludes that "these results suggest that engaging residents in doing some type of behavior, no matter how small, provides an important first step to broader adoption of firewise actions."  This finding supports the Firewise concept and the effectiveness of a process focused on starting small and building community norms over time.