USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Research Topics

Recreation: Social Aspects of Fire

Photographer: Tom Iraci / Name: Skeleton / Location: Bend, Oregon / Credit: NIFC NI002518 Fire events often have a large impact on recreation and tourism. Local and visiting populations are affected by the impacts, which include short and long-term biophysical effects, indirect effects of fire operations, fuel treatments, area closures, and other disruptions to human systems. However, little research on these impacts has been conducted. Specific information and resulting management tools are needed regarding constituent perceptions about fire suppression, post-fire forest health issues, beliefs about recreation activities, and beliefs about impacts to fire-prone ecosystems in the wildland-urban interface.

Studies Related to this Topic:

Fire social science research-selected highlights

Forest Service Research and Development has a long-standing component of social fire science that since 2000 has expanded significantly. Much of this new work focuses on research that will increase understanding of the social and economic issues connected with wildland fire and fuels management. This information can enhance the ability of agencies and communities to meet land management objectives in an effective and efficient manner that is well informed by public needs and preferences. This research will improve fire and fuels management decisions by contributing to a broader understanding of key public values and concerns about fire and fuels management-before, during, and after fire and fuels treatments; social and economic effects of different fire and fuels management decisions; external and internal barriers to effective fire management; and effect of different existing and proposed policies on management options and decision space. The research will also provide guidelines and tools for effective and efficient communication, both external and internal; improving safety, reliability, and ability to meet management objectives; working with communities and other partners to achieve fire and fuels management goals; and assessing tradeoffs in economic, ecological, and quality-of-life values of different decision options.

Recreation and Fire Management

A study was undertaken to understand the perceptions of USDA Forest Service (USFS) public land managers in relation to fire management and recreational use in Urban National Forests. An on-line survey was used to understand managers' perceptions of how the presence of recreational activities and experiences are a constraint to fire management; how fire management and suppression activities influence the quality of a visit to a recreation site; and the relationships between fire management and recreation constraints.

Rapid Response Research on Fire Communication With Wildland Interface Communities

A study was conducted on wildfire communication in wildland interface communities to understand the communication needs of the public and to explore agency response to those needs. The research team conducted the study in three stages before and after fires at the San Bernardino mountains. Rapid response research methods included informal discussions and focus groups, content analysis, and participant observation.

Communication of Fire Meanings and Messages

This study investigated how people's fire management and prevention cognitions are acquired and/or negotiated. This study looked at the processes through which WUI residents receive, interpret, and reconstruct wildfire messages, especially with respect to educational programs such as Firewise or Smokey Bear. In summary, having homeowners reach a point of internalizing the wildfire threat is an important step toward increasing Firewise behaviors.

Recreation and Fire: A Study of Year-Round and Seasonal Homeowners

This study was a mailed survey of residents within and proximate to National Forests in three states to better understand public attitudes about fire. Year-round and seasonal homeowners, and special use permittees holding cabins on FS land participated.

Outdoor Recreation Impacts from Fire Events: Learning From BAER Reports

This summary looked at the impact of fire events on forestlands by examining Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) reports. Outdoor recreation is not included within BAER reports because the loss of recreation-related facilities/amenities is not considered an emergency. The information provided by the BAER reports suggested substantial direct impacts of fire on outdoor recreation and substantial risks to recreation opportunities in the future. Though these reports do not offer evidence about behavioral impacts or perceptions of recreation visitors, they do assist in understanding impact to outdoor recreation settings and opportunities immediately after fire events and in the future.

Burned area - Hat Creek District, Lassen National Forest,
Agency Fire Management Options in the Southwest - Public Opinion in 4 States

General opinions about wildland and wilderness fire management and management interventions for the Forest Service were drawn from a telephone survey of residents in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico. Trust in the Forest Service, concern about fires, age, education, and gender, were significant in predicting intervention ratings.

Fire Research in Fireprone Areas: The Big Sur Region

Funded by the National Fire Plan, this is the second study with California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo to examine outdoor recreation use in the Big Sur region. We were interested in learning the opinions about fire and fire management from visitors to Big Sur.

Wildland/Urban Interface Within Fireprone Ecosystems

The wildland/urban interface presents many challenges within fire-prone ecosystems. Data were collected to examine issues related to recreation and fire management from visitors at Big Sur of the Los Padres National Forest. Results indicate that visitors do not seem to be overly concerned with fire management, although they do report some recreation constraints that may deserve attention by managers.

Californians' Opinions on Wildland and Wilderness Fire Management

A statewide survey of California residents was recently completed. Fire management is of great interest in the west, in part due to the high cost of fire suppression; and social values play an important role in fire management. These opinions are helpful in understanding public perceptions of, and reactions to fire management.

Wildfires and Tourist Behaviors in Florida

Wildfires can pose a serious threat to tourism, a main economic engine in virtually all states. This study surveyed tourists to Florida counties that had a recent wildfire and received fire suppression funds and assessed their perceptions of risk, attitudes and knowledge towards wildfire, and behavioral changes due to them. The report discusses the implications of these and other findings for land management decisions, tourism promotion and communications in general, e.g., providing information about prescribed burning or fire locations may mitigate the impact of wildfires on the tourism sector.

Photographer: Bryan Day, NIFC NI005587 / Location:  Atlanta, Idaho / Credit: NIFC NI005587
Wildland Fire Beliefs, Norms and Management Preferences

Because public values and norms about wildfire management often drive agency policies and landowner or recreationist behaviors a model for understanding and predicting public acceptance of wildland fire management is being developed. Using cognitive hierarchy as an underlying theoretical framework, fire-specific measures of visitors' value orientations (patterns of basic beliefs), and norms were developed and pretested.

Southwesterners' Opinions on Wildland and Wilderness Fire Management

Fire and fire management is of great interest in the southwestern United States, given the incidence of fire in this region, and the mounting costs of suppression and prevention. A previous issue of the update focused on Californians' attitudes about fire and fire management. Here, we feature findings from the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and California. While there are similarities across the southwest, significant geographic variations are evident.

Last Modified: Aug 29, 2016 11:03:33 AM