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October 24, 2013 Previous day Next day

Understanding the attitudes and perceptions of homeowners who live in the wildland/urban interface (WUI) is the key to more effective outreach and eduction efforts to WUI homeowners, according to an article, Fire on the Mountain:  What Motivates Homeowners to Reduce their Wildfire Risk?, in the 2013 September/October Science Bulletin from the USDA Forest Service


The financial costs of fighting fire in the WUI are enormous - in one survey of land managers, they estimated that between 50 and 95% of firefighting expenditures were attributable to defense of private property. (Photo Credit:  Bryan Day)

As wildfire professionals know, there are many resources available to homeowners that explain how they can reduce the risk of losing their home to a wildfire, but education and information at face value does not always translate into action, the article states. So, the question remains: what does it actually take to get people to change their behavior to reduce their risk of loss? Some of the key findings in the article try and answer this question:
  • Informal social networks (e.g., talking amongst neighbors) were more important than institutional arrangements (e.g., insurance mandates) in terms of promoting firewise mitigation actions.
  • Wildfire information received from local volunteer fire departments, county wildfire specialists, and neighbors was also positively related to higher mitigation levels.
  • Experiencing a major wildfire in the area raised the level of concern of WUI residents for their health and property compared to pre-fire levels.
  • WUI residents tend to underestimate their levels of wildfire risk when their self-assessment is compared to an assessment by a professional. 

Read the entire article.

What are you finding out in the field when you talk to residents? What has been successful? Where do we still need some work? Share your stories with us and our online community. 

For more information on NFPA's resources available for homeowners looking to reduce their wildfire risk, visit our Firewise website and take a look at the "Know Your Role/Homeowners and Residents" page on the Fire Adapted Communities website to see how you can work with other members of your community.

[Popular Mechanics Magazine |] was first published in January 1902.  It promotes articles that help the reader master the modern world, presenting trusted information about his home, his car, and his technology and the world around him. The magazine has a circulation of over 1 million readers.



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In the November 2013 issue the featured article “Line of Fire” by Kalee Thompson highlights the Yarnell Fire in Arizona. The article details the fire and ensuing tragedy.  It also mentions the Firewise and Ready, Set, Go! Programs and the need for residents to take responsibility for their home and immediate surroundings when it comes to mitigating the wildfire peril.


The article states,”Over a decade ago, the Forest Service embraced an interagency program called Firewise, (a program of the NFPA ) which helps towns and cities develop wildfire protection plans - everything from taking steps to make houses more resilient and defendable.  Of the estimated 70,000 U.S. communities identified as being in the wildland urban interface 943 of them have now prepared to survive a wildfire up from 400 in 2008.”

The article goes on to describe that although Yarnell with 503 structures was not a Firewise Community, the Pacific Biodiversity Institute of Washington State did conduct a limited analysis of the community’s homes using Google Earth images of the homes before the fire.  According to this article the Institute
determined that only 53 or 11 percent of the homes met basic defensible space standards and only 14 met firewise principles.  Of 503 structures in Yarnell 47 percent burned, of the 53 better prepared less than 10 percent burned of the 14 buildings that followed firewise principles not one burned!


The article then quotes Peter Morrison one of the researchers behind the study, “We have this attitude that the firefighters are going to come and rescue us and we don’t have to take responsibility.”  One of the lessons learned is that homeowners can improve the outcome of the survivability of their home and communities by embracing firewise principles as a Firewise Community, preparing using Ready Set Go and becoming a Fire Adapted Community on a larger scale.  Peter Morrison speaking about how better prepared communities can create safer conditions for firefighters goes on to say in the article, “It means that they (firefighters) are going to be much more sucessful in doing their job and much less likely to put their lives at risk.”

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Yarnell Hill Fire report released at Saturday press conference

!|src=|alt=|style=padding: 0; margin: 0; border: 0; display: block; width: 80px; max-width: 100%;!Radio problems cited in deaths of 19 firefighters

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