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A Multisite Qualitative Comparison of Community Wildfire Risk Perceptions

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It is increasingly important that natural resource managers understand residents' perceptions of wildfire risks, particularly as the wildland‐urban interface expands. Risk perceptions influence resident risk reduction strategies that are crucial to effective hazard management. This study compares key informant responses about community wildfire risk from five areas of the eastern United States. Perceptions are influenced by ecological characteristics as well as economic and sociodemographic factors. These include, e.g., the proliferation of low-density housing and second home development, local values and norms, and the strength of public services. Despite federal designation of wildfire risk, most informants said their communities were relatively unconcerned about wildfire. In some places, informants noted awareness of wildfire but lack of concern. Findings illustrate how social and cultural characteristics of participants' communities intersected with biophysical elements of wildfire to attenuate risk perceptions. Implications for community wildfire risk mitigation policy are discussed.
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Keywords: community; hazard response; key informants; risk perception; wildlife

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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