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Adapting to wildfire: Moving beyond homeowner risk perceptions to taking action

Author(s): Patricia A. Champ
Year Published: 2017

Champ’s presentation focused on how to get homeowners to take action to protect their properties from fire. She framed this challenge as a last-mile problem, which is a concept from the literature on supply chain. The last mile is the end of the supply chain where a product is transferred to the customer. The last mile is often the most difficult part of the entire supply chain, and for that reason, it should not be thought about last. Champ used a bridge to nowhere (based on a TED talk idea by Harvard University economist Sendhil Mullainathan) as a metaphor for the last-mile problem in fire science and management. A great deal of engineering has gone into building the bridge, yet it leads nowhere. Likewise, a century’s worth of fire science has been conducted, resulting in a better understanding of fire behavior and home ignitability. Yet there are still homeowners who do not take action to mitigate the risk posed to their property by fire.

Research finds that, generally, homeowners in the WUI understand that they live in a fire-prone landscape and that they are vulnerable to losing their home. However, taking action is not simple, Champ said. First, as Paveglio discussed, community context matters. Second, homeowners need specific information to take action. Therefore, the general concept of the home ignition zone (Figure 5-4) needs to be made applicable to the particular hazards on an individual homeowner’s parcel, such as the trees near a wood deck. Third, multiple interactions with the homeowner are required to induce action; one message to a homeowner about defensible space will not lead to behavioral change. The homeowner needs to interact on his or her property with someone he or she trusts, such as a volunteer from the fire department, a local wildfire council member, or a state forest service representative.

Citation: Champ, Patricia. 2017. Adapting to wildfire: Moving beyond homeowner risk perceptions to taking action. In: Laney, Kara N. A century of wildland fire research: Contributions to long-term approaches for wildland fire management: Proceedings of a workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. p. 67-72.
Topic(s): Wildland Urban Interface
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Conference Proceedings
NRFSN number: 16524
Record updated: Sep 8, 2020