Evacuation Behavior during Wildfires: Results of Three Case Studies

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Abstract:

Evacuation of rural communities threatened by wildfires is occurring more often, particularly in the western United States. Residents, public safety officials, community leaders, and public land managers are facing the issues and problems of this new experience. We used semi-structured interviews to elicit the evacuation experience from the viewpoint of evacuees and public safety officials in three case studies of wildfire evacuations in the western United States during 2000 and 2002. (Our interviews were conducted only with Teller County residents and officials.) We identify and describe the stages of the evacuation process as experienced by evacuees, and the dynamics and dilemmas associated with each stage. We analyze these perceptions and dynamics using the sociological lenses of social construction of meaning and structuration. The results indicate that evacuees and public safety officials have different perceptions and concerns about the evacuation process. We derive lessons learned from these three cases for use in planning future wildfire evacuations.

Keywords: Disaster response; situational constraint; social construction of evacuation; wildfire

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Natural Resource Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6410 2: Akita International University, Japan.

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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