Wildfire Messages and Meanings in the Wildland-Urban Interface

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Virginia Tech


Wildfire can be an extremely destructive force, especially when it reaches our nation's ever-increasing wildland-urban interface (WUI) area. To address this issue, state and federal agencies and cooperative education programs have begun to promote homeowner responsibility and wildfire vulnerability minimization practices as a means for WUI residents to take a proactive approach to protecting their homes from wildfire. This research provides resource managers with a new understanding of the processes through which WUI residents receive, interpret, and reconstruct wildfire messages, which will allow them to better assess their wildfire education programs. Results from this study suggest that WUI residents negotiate meanings for wildfire messages by externalizing and/or internalizing the hazard and its solution, and that these interpretations are strongly related to residents' behavioral response. This study also reveals significant discrepancies between WUI residents' central values and program goals; whereas fire programs generally highlight risk to homes and structures in the WUI, residents were typically far more concerned with their homes' contents and the environments within which their homes are situated. The insights provided by this study will increase program managers' ability to remedy these discrepancies and improve the effectiveness of wildfire vulnerability minimization programs and messages.



wildland-urban interface, meaning, identity, wildfire, risk