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News Release

Date: November 25, 2013

Studies Reflect How Homeowners View Wildfire Risk Over Time

FORT COLLINS, Colo., Nov. 25, 2013 – The need for homeowners to mitigate wildfire risk on private land is essential to reducing the devastating effects of wildfires. Scientists can now provide some insight into changes in homeowner attitudes and beliefs about wildfire, and their concerns about existing risk and behavioral changes over time. This is the focus of two recently published U.S. Forest Service reports, “Understanding Change: Wildfire in Larimer County, Colorado” and “Understanding Change: Wildfire in Boulder County, Colorado.”

Communities along Colorado’s Front Range are located in one of the highest wildfire risk regions in the United States due to accumulated fuels, climate change and an influx of residents into fire prone areas. Homes in the wildland urban interface of Larimer and Boulder Counties rank at the highest wildfire risk in the state. In recent years, these areas have experienced many wildfires, some resulting in great destruction.

For more than 10 years, counties throughout Colorado implemented various programs that encouraged homeowners to mitigate the risk of losing their homes during a wildfire event. To gauge how well these programs work, in 2007, research associate Hannah Brenkert-Smith of the University of Colorado, Boulder, working with and Larimer and Boulder Counties, surveyed WUI residents about living with wildfire. In 2010, a follow-up survey sponsored by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Colorado State Forest Service, assessed changes in homeowners’ experiences with wildfire, perceptions of risks, wildfire risk information sources, and mitigation efforts.

“Overall, the latest surveys show relatively stable attitudes and beliefs about wildfire,” said research economist Patricia Champ, co-author of the Forest Service reports. “Homeowners are increasingly concerned about wildfire damage to property and landscapes, as well as the safety of pets and livestock.” The survey indicates an increase in mitigation efforts by landowners, including thinning and pruning trees around homes.

However, respondents have less confidence that their mitigation actions will reduce wildfire risk, and increasingly believe that a lack of funds and neighbors’ untreated fuels will reduce the effectiveness of their mitigation efforts. Finally, respondents feel that their local volunteer fire departments are the best source of good information regarding wildfires and mitigation. “Perhaps most notable, said Champ, is that homeowners are very aware of wildfire risk and continue to take actions to reduce that risk.”

These survey results help resource specialists throughout the Front Range and elsewhere better understand and manage for changes in attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of residents living in Colorado’s Front Range wildland urban interface.

Learn more about these studies:

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization - the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12 state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Plains, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. RMRS research is broken into seven science program areas that serve the Forest Service as well as other federal and state agencies, international organizations, private groups, and individuals. To find out more about the RMRS go to www.fs.fed.us/rmrs. You can also follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usfs_rmrs.


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