Homeowners: Experts view wildfire danger differently

Homeowners: Experts view wildfire danger differently

03 August 2015

published by www.thedenverchannel.com

USA — Almost everyone who lives in areas prone to wildfires knows the risk, but that perceived risk among homeowners is lower than it is with fire professionals and wildfire experts.

“Although every location and community is different, it is fairly typical to find that professionals will rate the risks of hazards, like wildfire, higher than the people facing those risks tend to,” said James Meldrum.

Meldrum is a research associate in the environment and society program at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science. He’s was also a lead in a study at the university.

The study’s key findings are the work of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the West Region Wildfire Council. The team’s data is based on surveys of nearly 300 residents of Log Hill Village in southwestern Colorado’s Ouray County in 2012.

The study shows that people are more concerned about risk factors that they can’t control, like vegetation density in the forest that surrounds their home, and less concerned about mitigation techniques that they can control, like cutting down trees around the property, rebuilding big wooden decks and taking care of liquid propane tanks.

“There are a lot of things homeowners can do on their own properties to protect themselves from wildfire, but the time to do them is now, before there is a fire,” said Meldrum. “In our research, we find that people often feel constrained by a lack of information about what they can do to reduce their properties’ wildfire risks, but there are a lot of useful information sources available. For example, the Boulder County website has some great resources about preparing for wildfire.”

Matt Smart lives in Fourmile Canyon, which was largely destroyed in one of the state’s biggest wildfires. Smart says, even the most thought out fire mitigation techniques can still pale in comparison to the power and plan of Mother Nature.

“Some houses even twice as much as the actual requirement for fire mitigation and it made absolutely no difference with wind,” said Smart. “I guess the dangers a little bit less, but it’s always there just because when you add in the factor of wind, then it doesn’t matter how great any of this area’s been fire mitigated.”

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