5th Symposium on Fire and Forest Meteorology and the 2nd International Wildland Fire Ecology and Fire Management Congress

Wednesday, 19 November 2003: 2:30 PM
Creating defensible space in the urban-wildland interface: a comparison of perceptions of seasonal and full–time residents
Alan D. Bright, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO; and R. T. Burtz
Poster PDF (45.4 kB)
Creating defensible space in the wildland-urban interface: A comparison of perceptions of seasonal and full – time residents

Alan D. Bright, Assistant Professor, Department of Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523 Randall T. Burtz, Assistant Professor, Department of Recreation, Park & Tourism Sciences 2261 Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-2261

Many people are moving into areas that are near wooded natural areas like forests, parks, and other open space. As a result of the large number of fires around the country during the past few summers and fears that such fires will continue, concerns exist regarding the safety of people as well as private and public property located in the wildland-urban interface. One fire protection alternative is creating defensible space around private residences. This involves activities like the removal or reduction of plants, trees, and shrubs in vulnerable sites among others. This study examined public perceptions and likelihood of engaging in activities designed to create defensible space around private residences in the wildland-urban interface. The theory of planned behavior was the conceptual framework used for the study. This theory posits that an individuals intentions to engage in “firewise” activities is influenced by attitudes toward, subjective norms regarding, and perceived behavioral control over those activities. Attitudes toward engaging in firewise activities reflect peoples’ beliefs about what outcomes would occur by engaging in these activities. Subjective norms regarding “firewise” activities are driven by the extent to which individuals perceive that referent individuals and groups want them to do “firewise” activities and their motivation to comply with these referents. Behavioral control represents the extent to which individuals believe that “firewise” activities are (a) affective in protecting private property and (b) feasible to do. Full-time and seasonal homeowners in 4 north central Minnesota counties received a self-report questionnaire designed to obtain their perceptions and likelihood of doing “firewise” activities around their home. Regression analysis found that the most important factor influencing the likelihood that full-time and seasonal resident did “firewise” activities were attitudes toward the activities. Full-time residents believed more strongly that the activities would result in nice looking neighborhoods, improve property appearance, and reduce the damage of a home by fire. Seasonal residents were more likely to perceive that these activities would take a lot of time, damage the natural environment, and require cutting many trees. The desires of referent individuals and groups (subjective norms) were significant yet weak predictors of whether an individual would engage in firewise activities for both full-time and seasonal residents. The primary difference between resident types was in perceived behavioral control. Seasonal residents reported that “not having enough time” was an important barrier toward engaging in these activities. Seasonal residents believed that doing “firewise” activities would be less effective than did full-time residents. These finding have implications for communicating the need to engage in “firewise” activities. Seasonal residents were less likely to do these activities than full-time residents and cited time and effort, effects on the natural environment, and the effectiveness of such actions. Developing belief-targeted messages for this group may change their perceptions about doing firewise activities and increase their willingness to engage in them.

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