Exploring relationships between perceived suppression capabilities and resident performance of wildfire mitigations

TitleExploring relationships between perceived suppression capabilities and resident performance of wildfire mitigations
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsStasiewicz, AM, Paveglio, TB
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Date Published05/2022
KeywordsCapability, Capacity, Fire departments, Fire service organizations, technical reports and journal articles, wildfire risk mitigation

Increased wildfire activity has led to renewed interest in enhancing local capacity to reduce wildfire risk in residential areas. Local fire departments (LFDs) are often the first responders to rural wildfires. However, LFDs may also struggle to address service demands in the growing wildland urban interface, including increasing numbers of wildfire incidents and changes in area socio-demographics (e.g., aging populations) or culture (e.g., decreasing volunteerism, new residents). We used a mixed-mode survey (n = 770) to explore rural perceptions of various fire service organizations (FSOs), including LFDs, in wildfire-prone areas of northeastern Washington State, USA. We also explore relationships between perceptions of LFD capabilities or capacity (e.g., personnel, LFD ability to respond to private property during a wildfire event) and resident performance of eleven wildfire risk mitigation activities that contribute to home defense (e.g., development of a water supply, installing sprinklers). We found that study participants have relatively high levels of trust in LFD’s to respond to a wildfire event on their properties. This trust is also slightly higher than the amount of trust placed in other FSOs (e.g., state, federal, private contractors). Respondents also largely understand that LFDs do not have sufficient capacity or capability to respond when wildfire events impact multiple private properties in their area. Trust in LFDs was significantly and negatively correlated with resident installation of fire-resistant siding, installation of sprinklers on their home, and placing firewood or lumber more than 30 feet (~9 m) from their dwelling. Similarly, respondents’ perceptions of LFD capacity and capabilities was significantly and negatively correlated with purchasing a generator and stacking firewood more than 30 feet (~9 m) from their home. Our results suggest that perceptions of FSOs have the potential associations with resident performance of select wildfire mitigation actions (e.g., firewood placement, installation of non-flammable siding). However, they also were not significantly related to many other mitigations suggested for residents to complete as part of broader wildfire management strategies (e.g., driveway clearance, water supply establishment, safe zone creation).