Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8232
Title: A Burning Problem: Social Dynamics of Disaster Risk Reduction through Wildfire Mitigation
Author: S. Charnley, Melissa R. Poe, Thomas Spies, Alan Ager, Emily Platt, Keith Olsen
Publication Year: 2015
Journal: Human Organization
Keywords: natural disaster, wildfire, Forest Service, restoration,

Disasters result from hazards affecting vulnerable people.  Most disasters research by anthropologists focuses on vulnerability; this article focuses on natural hazards.  We use the case of wildfire mitigation on US Forest Service lands in the northwestern United States to examine social, political, and economic variables at multiple scales that influence fire hazard and risk reduction treatments and their effectiveness.  Variables highlighted include policy direction to prioritize wildfire risk reduction in the wildland-urban interface; laws and policies that make treating fuels in some national forest land management allocations challenging; social and political constraints on using prescribed fire; agency budget and target pressures; and integrating fire hazard reduction into forest management projects having multiple objectives.  These variables compromise the effectiveness of wildfire mitigation treatments.  Understanding the social dynamics of natural hazard mitigation is important because they affect its outcomes, creating differential exposure to natural hazards – one component of social vulnerability.    Interdisciplinary research to identify how the social dynamics of natural hazard mitigation influence hazard reduction outcomes can contribute to more informed and effective approaches to disaster risk reduction.