Wildland Urban Interface
Wildfires pose significant risks to populations living in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI). We examine the influence of WUI residents’ risk perceptions as well as other cognitive constructs (guided by Protection Motivation Theory) likely to influence their decisions to take wildfire mitigation actions before and shortly after a near-miss wildfire. We used a drop-off/pick up survey to compare pre- and post-fire risk perceptions and mitigation actions of residents living in close proximity to the 416 Fire in southwestern Colorado, USA. Our research was guided by the general question, does a near-miss wildfire influence residents’ perceptions and self-reported fire risk mitigation behaviors? Specifically, we examined the cognitive appraisals and physical risk factors influencing residents’ previous and planned mitigation actions both before and after the fire. Our findings show risk perceptions declined significantly after the fire while residents’ intentions to take nine different fire risk mitigation actions increased. These results suggest near-miss fire events result in simultaneous “let-downs” and “wake-up calls” among affected residents. Near-miss wildfires present a unique opportunity for wildfire community preparedness, outreach, and engagement programs to capitalize on an increased willingness to take risk mitigation actions. However, these programs may face difficulties in communicating the continued threat of subsequent fire events.