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Understanding evacuation preferences and wildfire mitigations among Northwest Montana residents

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There is currently insufficient information in the United States about residents’ planned evacuation actions during wildfire events, including any intent to remain at or near home during fire events. This is incompatible with growing evidence that select populations at risk from wildfire are considering alternatives to evacuation. This study explores the evacuation preferences of wildland–urban interface residents in Flathead County, Montana, USA. We compare the performance of wildfire mitigation and fuel reduction actions across groups of residents with different primary evacuation preferences. We also explore what factors (e.g. actions, demographics, attitudes towards government, risk perceptions) help explain residents’ preferences for evacuation. Results suggest that relatively high proportions of residents are interested in staying and defending their homes, with smaller proportions favouring evacuation or passively sheltering in their homes during wildfire. Vegetation management behaviour differs significantly among residents with different evacuation preferences, including significantly higher rates of forest thinning among those intending to remain at home and actively defend their residence. Other results suggest that sex, part-time residency, income and attitudes towards loss from fire are statistically associated with differences in evacuation preferences.

T. Paveglio; T. Prato; D. Dalenberg; T. Venn

Paveglio T, Prato T, Dalenberg D, Venn T. Understanding evacuation preferences and wildfire mitigations among Northwest Montana residents. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 2014 ;23(3).