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Living in a tinderbox: wildfire risk perceptions and mitigating behaviors

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The loss of homes to wildfires is an important issue in the USA and other countries. Yet many homeowners living in fire-prone areas do not undertake mitigating actions, such as clearing vegetation, to decrease the risk of losing their home. To better understand the complexity of wildfire risk-mitigation decisions and the role of perceived risk, we conducted a survey of homeowners in a fire-prone area of the front range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We examine the relationship between perceived wildfire risk ratings and risk-mitigating behaviours in two ways. First, we model wildfire risk-mitigation behaviours as a function of perceived risk. Then, we model wildfire risk-mitigation behaviours and perceived risk simultaneously. The results of the simultaneous model suggest that perceived risk and wildfire risk-mitigating behaviours are jointly determined. By correctly specifying the relationship between risk perceptions and mitigating behaviours, we are better able to understand the relationship between other factors, such as exposure to a wildfire-mitigation program and wildfire risk-mitigating behaviours. We also find that having a wood roof, as well as homeowner age, income and previous experience with living in a fire-prone area, are associated with wildfire risk-mitigating behaviours.

P.A. Champ; G.H. Donovan; C.M. Barth

Champ PA, Donovan GH, Barth CM. Living in a tinderbox: wildfire risk perceptions and mitigating behaviors. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2013 ;On-line early.