Advertisement

Environmental Management

, Volume 62, Issue 2, pp 210–228 | Cite as

Does Wildfire Open a Policy Window? Local Government and Community Adaptation After Fire in the United States

  • Miranda H. Mockrin
  • Hillary K. Fishler
  • Susan I. Stewart
Article

Abstract

Becoming a fire adapted community that can coexist with wildfire is envisioned as a continuous, iterative process of adaptation, but it is unclear how communities may pursue adaptation. Experience with wildfire and other natural hazards suggests that disasters may open a “window of opportunity” leading to local government policy changes. We examined how destructive wildfire affected progress toward becoming fire adapted in eight locations in the United States. We found that community-level adaptation following destructive fires is most common where destructive wildfire is novel and there is already government capacity and investment in wildfire regulation and land use planning. External funding, staff capacity, and the presence of issue champions combined to bring about change after wildfire. Locations with long histories of destructive wildfire, extensive previous investment in formal wildfire regulation and mitigation, or little government and community capacity to manage wildfire saw fewer changes. Across diverse settings, communities consistently used the most common tools and actions for wildfire mitigation and planning. Nearly all sites reported changes in wildfire suppression, emergency response, and hazard planning documents. Expansion in voluntary education and outreach programs to increase defensible space was also common, occurring in half of our sites, but land use planning and regulations remained largely unchanged. Adaptation at the community and local governmental level therefore may not axiomatically follow from each wildfire incident, nor easily incorporate formal approaches to minimizing land use and development in hazardous environments, but in many sites wildfire was a focusing event that inspired reflection and adaptation.

Keywords

Hazard Fire adapted communities Wildland–urban interface Disaster Recovery 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are indebted to all interviewees for sharing their time and expertise and gratefully acknowledge support from Joint Fire Science Funding Program (award 14-2-01-6) and National Fire Plan funding from the USDA Forest Service (Northern Research Station and Rocky Mountain Research Station). Kathryn Thomason assisted with document review.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

267_2018_1030_MOESM1_ESM.docx (33 kb)
Supplementary Table

References

  1. Abrams JB, Knapp M, Paveglio TB, Ellison A, Moseley C, Nielsen-Pincus M, Carroll MC (2015) Re-envisioning community-wildfire relations in the US West as adaptive governance. Ecol Soc 20(3):34. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-07848-200334
  2. Abrams J, Nielsen-Pincus M, Paveglio T, Moseley C (2016) Community wildfire protection planning in the American West: homogeneity within diversity? J Environ Plan Manag 59:557–572CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Angeles National Forest (2014) Decision notice/finding of no significant impact. Defensible space project U.S. Forest Service, Angeles National Forest, Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County, California, 7ppGoogle Scholar
  4. Balch JK, Bradley BA, Abatzoglou JT, Nagy RC, Fusco EJ, Mahood AL (2017) Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 114:2946–2951Google Scholar
  5. Birkland TA (1997) After disaster: agenda setting, public policy, and focusing events. Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, USA Google Scholar
  6. Birkland TA (2006) Lessons of disaster: policy change after catastrophic events. Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
  7. Birkland TA (2009) Disasters, lessons learned, and fantasy documents. J Contingencies Crisis Manag 17:146–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Birkmann J et al. (2010) Extreme events and disasters: a window of opportunity for change? Analysis of organizational, institutional and political changes, formal and informal responses after mega-disasters. Nat Hazards 55:637–655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brenkert-Smith H, Champ PA, Flores N (2012) Trying not to get burned: understanding homeowners’ wildfire risk–mitigation behaviors. Environ Manag 50:1139–1151Google Scholar
  10. Brenkert-Smith H, Meldrum JR, Champ PA, Barth CM (2017) Where you stand depends on where you sit: qualitative inquiry into notions of fire adaptation. Ecol Soc 22(3):7. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09471-220307
  11. Brzuszek R, Walker J, Schauwecker T, Campany C, Foster M, Grado S (2010) Planning strategies for community wildfire defense design in Florida. J For 108:250–257Google Scholar
  12. Burby RJ (2001) Flood insurance and floodplain management: the US experience. Glob Environ Change Environ Hazards 3:111–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Buxton M, Haynes R, Mercer D, Butt A (2011) Vulnerability to bushfire risk at Melbourne’s urban fringe: the failure of regulatory land use planning. Geogr Res 49:1–12.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-5871.2010.00670.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carroll MS, Cohn PJ, Seesholtz DN, Higgins LL (2005) Fire as a galvanizing and fragmenting influence on communities: the case of the Rodeo–Chediski fire. Soc Nat Resour 18:301–320.  https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920590915224 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Champ PA, Brenkert-Smith H (2015) Is seeing believing? Perceptions of wildfire risk over time. Risk Anal 36:816–830Google Scholar
  16. Cohen JD (2000) Preventing disaster: home ignitability in the wildland-urban interface. J For 98:15–21Google Scholar
  17. Collins TW, Bolin B (2009) Situating hazard vulnerability: people’s negotiations with wildfire environments in the U.S. Southwest. Environ Manag 44:441–455.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-009-9333-5 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Corbin J , Strauss A , Strauss AL (2015) Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SageGoogle Scholar
  19. County of Los Angeles (2016) Fire Code Title 32, 109.4.1-Abatement of ViolationGoogle Scholar
  20. Duerksen C, Elliott D, Anthony P (2011) Addressing Community Wildfire Risk: A Review and Assessment of Regulatory and Planning Tools. Final Report by Clarion Associates. The Fire Protection Research FoundationGoogle Scholar
  21. Edgeley CM, Paveglio TB (2017) Community recovery and assistance following large wildfires: the case of the Carlton Complex Fire. Int J Disaster Risk Reduct 25:137–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. FAC Learning Network (2016) Fire Adapted Communities Self-Assessment Tool. http://fireadaptednetwork.org/resources/fac-assessment-tool/
  23. Fire Adapted Communities Coalition (2014) Guide to Fire Adapted Communities. http://www.fireadapted.org/~/media/Fire%20Adapted/Files/FAC%20Reference%20Guide%202014%20FINAL%20reduced%202.pdf. Accessed 19 Apr 2017
  24. Flannigan M, Cantin AS, de Groot WJ, Wotton M, Newbery A, Gowman LM (2013) Global wildland fire season severity in the 21st century. For Ecol Manag 294:54–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Flint CG (2007) Changing forest disturbance regimes and risk perceptions in Homer, Alaska. Risk Anal 27:1597–1608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Frazier TG, Walker MH, Kumari A, Thompson CM (2013) Opportunities and constraints to hazard mitigation planning. Appl Geogr 40:52–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gerber BJ (2007) Disaster management in the United States: Examining key political and policy challenges. Policy Stud J 35:227–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Government Accountability Office (2011) Station Fire: Forest Service’s response offers potential lessons for future wildland fire management. GAO-12-155. http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587075.pdf. Washington, DC
  29. Hammer RB, Stewart SI, Radeloff VC (2009) Demographic trends, the wildland–urban interface, and wildfire management. Soc Nat Resour 22:777–782CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Harris LM, McGee TK, McFarlane BL (2011) Implementation of wildfire risk management by local governments in Alberta, Canada. J Environ Plan Manag 54:457–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jakes PJ, Sturtevant V (2013) Trial by fire: community wildfire protection plans put to the test. Int J Wildland Fire 22:1134–1143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kingdon JW (1984) Agendas, alternatives, and public policies, vol 45. Little, Brown, BostonGoogle Scholar
  33. Kramer HA, Mockrin MH, Alexandre PM, Stewart SI, Radeloff VC (in press) Where wildfires destroy buildings in the US relative to the wildland-urban interface and national fire outreach program. Int J Wildland Fire. http://www.publish.csiro.au/wf/WF17135
  34. Labossière LM, McGee TK (2017) Innovative wildfire mitigation by municipal governments: two case studies in Western Canada. Int J Disaster Risk Reduct 22:204–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lyles W, Berke P, Smith G (2014) A comparison of local hazard mitigation plan quality in six states, USA. Landsc Urban Plan 122:89–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. May PJ (1992) Policy learning and failure. Journal of public policy 12(4):331–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McCaffrey S, Toman E, Stidham M, Shindler B (2013) Social science research related to wildfire management: an overview of recent findings and future research needs. Int J Wildland Fire 22:15.  https://doi.org/10.1071/WF11115 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCaffrey SM, Stidham M, Toman E, Shindler B (2011) Outreach programs, peer pressure, and common sense: What motivates homeowners to mitigate wildfire risk? Environ Manag 48:475–488Google Scholar
  39. McGee TK (2011) Public engagement in neighbourhood level wildfire mitigation and preparedness: case studies from Canada, the US and Australia. J Environ Manag 92:2524–2532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McGee TK, McFarlane BL, Varghese J (2009) An examination of the influence of hazard experience on wildfire risk perceptions and adoption of mitigation measures. Soc Nat Resour 22:308–323.  https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920801910765 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McGranahan DA (1999) Natural amenities drive rural population change. Agricultural Economic Report No.781. US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington DGoogle Scholar
  42. Mell WE, Manzello SL, Maranghides A, Butry D, Rehm RG (2010) The wildland–urban interface fire problem–current approaches and research needs. Int J Wildland Fire 19:238–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Michaels S, Goucher NP, McCarthy D (2006) Policy windows, policy change, and organizational learning: watersheds in the evolution of watershed management. Environ Manag 38:983–992CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mockrin MH, Stewart SI, Alexandre P, Radeloff VC, Hammer RB (2015) Adapting after wildfire: recovery from home loss. Soc Nat Resour 28:839–856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mockrin MH, Stewart SI, Radeloff VC, Hammer RB (2016) Recovery and adaptation after wildfire on the Colorado Front Range (2010–12). Int J Wildland Fire 25:1144–1155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Moritz MA et al. (2014) Learning to coexist with wildfire. Nature 515:58–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Muller B, Schulte S (2011) Governing wildfire risks: what shapes county hazard mitigation programs? J Plan Educ Res 31:60–73.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0739456x10395895 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. National Interagency Fire Center (2016) National Interagency Coordination Center Wildland Fire Summary and Statistics Annual Report 2016. https://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/intelligence/2016_Statssumm/2016Stats&Summ.html
  49. National Wildfire Coordinating Group (2016) SIT-209. https://fam.nwcg.gov/famweb/hist_209/report_list_209. Accessed 8 May 2018
  50. Nevada Division of Forestry (2010) Report to Nevada State Legislature SB-94. Review and Evaluation of Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Fire Protection in Lake Tahoe and Lake Mead BasinsGoogle Scholar
  51. NFPA (2013) Community wildfire safety through regulation: a best practices guide for planners and regulators. Quincy, National Fire Protection Association, MAGoogle Scholar
  52. Olsen CS, Shindler BA (2010) Trust, acceptance, and citizen–agency interactions after large fires: influences on planning processes. Int J Wildland Fire 19:137–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pais JF, Elliott JR (2008) Places as recovery machines: vulnerability and neighborhood change after major hurricanes. Soc Forces 86:1415–1453CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Paveglio T, Edgeley C (2017) Community diversity and hazard events: understanding the evolution of local approaches to wildfire. Nat Hazards. https://doi.org/101007/s11069-017-2810-xGoogle Scholar
  55. Paveglio T, Moseley C, Carroll MS, Williams DR, Davis EJ, Fischer AP (2015a) Categorizing the social context of the wildland urban interface: Adaptive capacity for wildfire and community “archetypes”. For Sci 61:298–310Google Scholar
  56. Paveglio TB, Abrams J, Ellison A (2016) Developing fire adapted communities: the importance of interactions among elements of local context. Soc Nat Resour 29:1246–1261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Paveglio TB, Brenkert-Smith H, Hall T, Smith AM (2015b) Understanding social impact from wildfires: advancing means for assessment. Int J Wildland Fire 24:212–224Google Scholar
  58. Platt RH, Salvesen D, Baldwin II GH (2002) Rebuilding the North Carolina coast after Hurricane Fran: did public regulations matter? Coast Manag 30:249–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Plevel S (1997) Fire policy at the wildland-urban interface. J For 95:12–16Google Scholar
  60. Prater CS, Lindell MK (2000) Politics of hazard mitigation. Nat Hazards Rev 1:73–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Prokopy LS, Mullendore N, Brasier K, Floress K (2014) A typology of catalyst events for collaborative watershed management in the United States. Soc Nat Resour 27:1177–1191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. QSR (2014) NVivo qualitative data analysis Software, version 11Google Scholar
  63. Sabatier PA, Jenkins-Smith H (1999) The Advocacy Coalition Framework: an assessment. In: Sabatier P (ed) Theories of the policy process. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp 117–168Google Scholar
  64. Solecki WD, Michaels S (1994) Looking through the postdisaster policy window. Environ Manag 18:587–595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Steelman TA, Kunkel G, Bell D (2004) Federal and state influence on community responses to wildfire threats: Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. J For 102:21–27Google Scholar
  66. Steelman TA, Burke CA (2007) Is wildfire policy in the United States sustainable? Journal of forestry 105(2):67–72Google Scholar
  67. Stephens SL et al. (2012) The effects of forest fuel-reduction treatments in the United States. BioScience 62:549–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Stidham M, McCaffrey S, Toman E, Shindler B (2014) Policy tools to encourage community-level defensible space in the United States: a tale of six communities. J Rural Stud 35:59–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Syphard AD, Bar Massada A, Butsic V, Keeley JE (2013a) Land use planning and wildfire: development policies influence future probability of housing loss. PLoS ONE 8:e71708.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071708 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Syphard AD, Massada AB, Butsic V, Keeley JE (2013b) Land use planning and wildfire: development policies influence future probability of housing loss. PLoS ONE 8:e71708CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Thomas A, Leichenko R (2011) Adaptation through insurance: lessons from the NFIP. Int J Clim Change Strateg Manag 3:250–263CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Winter G, Fried JS (2000) Homeowner perspectives on fire hazard, responsibility, and management strategies at the Wildland-urban interface. Soc Nat Resour 13:33–49.  https://doi.org/10.1080/089419200279225 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Winter G, McCaffrey S, Vogt CA (2009) The role of community policies in defensible space compliance. For Policy Econ 11:570–578CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Winter GJ, Vogt C, Fried JS (2002) Fuel treatments at the wildland-urban interface: common concerns in diverse regions. J For 100:15–21Google Scholar

Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA Forest Service, Northern Research StationBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Oregon State University, School of Public PolicyCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations