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Alternatives to Evacuation—Protecting Public Safety during Wildland Fire

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Remaining inside fire-safe structures or at designated safety zones to actively defend against wildland fire events is an underrepresented area of scholarship. Although research on chemical spills and tornadoes has long advocated a similar practice of shelter-in-place during certain types of emergency situations, its applicability to the field of wildland fire management appears only infrequently in conferences and necessitates a more active view of participants in ensuring their safety. This article suggests that the Australian model of fire response, “prepare, stay and defend, or leave early,” may emerge as a viable alternative to evacuation in some, but not all, wildland–urban interface (WUI) fire situations. Several communities in the West have begun to explore opportunities for alternatives to evacuation during wildland fire. Because of the lack of US experience with these types of responses during fire events we attempt to draw lessons from disaster and risk communication literature related to other types of hazards. An overview of associated fire literature will provide background and situate these concerns in a larger social context. We maintain that this literature provides insight into the considerations, precautions, and initial steps needed for testing the applicability of the Australian model of “prepare, stay and defend, or leave early” during wildland fire events threatening WUI populations.
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Keywords: evacuation; wildfire

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2008

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