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Walking through a ‘phoenix landscape’: hiker surveys reveal nuanced perceptions of wildfire effects

Author(s): Alexandra Weill, Lauren M. Watson, Andrew Latimer
Year Published: 2020
Description:

Public opinion of wildfire is often perceived to be negative and in support of fire suppression, even though research suggests public opinions have become more positive over the past few decades. However, most prior work on this topic has focused on homeowners in forested regions. In this study, we shift the lens to hikers in a chaparral- and oak-savannah-dominated landscape that burned at high severity in 2015. We surveyed hikers before and after their hike about their familiarity and perceptions of local fire, and wildfire in the nation at large. We found hikers were familiar with topics such as prescribed fire and basic fire ecology, but knew little about local ecology or fire regimes. Post-hike perceptions of fire and feelings about wildfire in the USA were complex and heterogeneous, not predominantly negative. Contrary to frequent media descriptions of post-fire landscapes as ‘devastated’ or ‘moonscapes,’ many participants described the burned landscape with awe and admiration. These results suggest that residents of fire-prone landscapes may benefit from programming that emphasises benefits and challenges of fire in the local landscape and incorporates visits to local burned sites throughout the recovery period.

Citation: Weill, Alexandra M.; Watson, Lauren M.; Latimer, Andrew M. 2020. Walking through a ‘phoenix landscape’: hiker surveys reveal nuanced perceptions of wildfire effects. International Journal of Wildland Fire 29(7):561-571. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF19053
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21918
FRAMES RCS number: 61577
Record updated: Sep 16, 2020