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Factors Influencing Forest Service Fire Managers' Risk Behavior

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Fire managers from five western regions of the USDA Forest Service were surveyed to determine which decision factors most strongly influenced their fire-risk behavior. Three fire-decision contexts were tested: Escaped Wildfire, Prescribed Burning, and Long-Range Fire Budget Planning. Managers first responded to scenarios constructed for each decision-making context. Various types of risk were manipulated in each context to determine what factors could influence a shift in risk behavior. Following the presentation of scenarios, managers rated and ranked decision factors that might influence their decision-making on fire. Results show that safety, the resources at risk, public opinion, and the reliability of information were important influences on manager decisions. Local or regional policy changes and personal considerations had less influence. Manager ratings and ranking of what factors are important in fire decision-making were consistent with fire-risk decisions taken in each of the three decision contexts. Fire-risk behavior also varied from one geographic region to another and from one fire-decision context to another. Depending on the kinds of risks managers perceived, their decisions shifted along the risk-avoidance/risk-taking continuum. For. Sci. 36(3):531-548.

Keywords: Fire management; decision-making; fire policy; forest fire

Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: Associate Professor, Forest Management Department, Oregon State University, Corvallis 97331

Publication date: September 1, 1990

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