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Wildfire preparedness and resilience in community contexts: Issues and perspectives


Paton, D and Tedim, F, Wildfire preparedness and resilience in community contexts: Issues and perspectives, Wildfire and Community: Facilitating preparedness and resilience, Charles C Thomas Publisher, Ltd, Douglas Paton and Fantina Tedim (ed), Illinois, USA, pp. 3-13. ISBN 9780398088422 (2012) [Research Book Chapter]


This book is about the relationships people have with hazards that are variously called wildfires, forest fires and bushfires depending on which part of the world one finds oneself in. To simplify nomenclature, the term wildfire will be used throughout this book. Wildfires represent a growing threat to environments, to people and communities and to societies worldwide. These problems have been most noticeable in the United States, Southern Europe and Australia (e.g., as a result of recent catastrophic events in Australia, California, and Greece) where research and public scrutiny has been greatest. However, as the contents of this text attest, a need for a better understanding of wildfires and how wildfire risk can be effectively and sustainably managed is also required in South America and India. Developing such understanding and capability is becoming a more pressing issue in all these countries.

Current forecasts suggest that, particularly in the context of climate change phenomena, the incidence of large scale, damaging wildfire hazard events, their intensity, their frequency and their duration will increase (e.g., Nicholls & Lucas, 2007). Furthermore, it can be anticipated that climate change will affect the distribution of wildfire risk and result in their emerging on the hazard-scape of some areas and,such as population growth, migration (e.g., into the peri-urban or wildland- urban interface zone) and infrastructure development will increase the scale and consequences of the losses that could potentially occur from wildfire events and contribute to the development of progressively more complex risk management contexts. Thus, in many parts of the world, climatic change, land use change and population dynamics are interacting to change and increase the risk posed by wildfire hazards to contemporary societies.

Recognition of these changes and their implications calls for risk management concepts and strategies to include the people who live with, contribute to and can assist with the management of wildfire risk and who can be affected by and have to recover from wildfire events. Consequently, managing wildfire risk calls for greater understanding of the role people, communities and societal factors play in the origins and nature of the risk wildfire poses, how this risk has developed and how it may change over time. It calls for greater attention to be paid to developing household, community and societal capacity to anticipate, mitigate, cope with, adapt to, and recover from events that are likely to increase in frequency and severity over the coming years and decades (Paton, 2006). It is thus becoming increasingly important to consider the contributions to risk emanating from the social domain.

The need to actively pursue this understanding derives from the fact that despite the attention and financial resources devoted to wildfire risk management over several decades, the goal of ensuring the sustained adoption of the kinds of mitigation and protective measures that scientific and expert sources believe to be crucial to promoting community safety has proved elusive. Consequently, new insights are required if this state of affairs is to be remedied.

The contents of this book review and summarize the findings of substantive research programs on the social dimensions of wildfire risk being conducted in the United States, Australia, Portugal, India, Chile, Greece and Cyprus. The contributors bring considerable intellectual rigor to bear on their identification of the personal, social, societal, environmental and ecological factors that influence both people's interpretation of wildfire risk and the choices they make about how to manage their risk. The work described by the authors provide a foundation for presenting evidence-based strategies that can be used by fire and other government and non-governmental agencies responsible for wildfire mitigation and risk management to design effective mitigald- tion, risk communication and community outreach programs for use in- in communities that live with the spectre of wildfires.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Social and personality psychology
Research Field:Social psychology
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Natural hazards
Objective Field:Natural hazards not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Paton, D (Professor Douglas Paton)
ID Code:82978
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2013-02-26
Last Modified:2013-06-12
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