Environmental Management

, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 1139–1151 | Cite as

Trying Not to Get Burned: Understanding Homeowners’ Wildfire Risk–Mitigation Behaviors

  • Hannah Brenkert-Smith
  • Patricia A. Champ
  • Nicholas Flores


Three causes have been identified for the spiraling cost of wildfire suppression in the United States: climate change, fuel accumulation from past wildfire suppression, and development in fire-prone areas. Because little is likely to be performed to halt the effects of climate on wildfire risk, and because fuel-management budgets cannot keep pace with fuel accumulation let alone reverse it, changing the behaviors of existing and potential homeowners in fire-prone areas is the most promising approach to decreasing the cost of suppressing wildfires in the wildland–urban interface and increasing the odds of homes surviving wildfire events. Wildfire education efforts encourage homeowners to manage their property to decrease wildfire risk. Such programs may be more effective with a better understanding of the factors related to homeowners’ decisions to undertake wildfire risk–reduction actions. In this study, we measured whether homeowners had implemented 12 wildfire risk–mitigation measures in 2 Colorado Front Range counties. We found that wildfire information received from local volunteer fire departments and county wildfire specialists, as well as talking with neighbors about wildfire, were positively associated with higher levels of mitigation. Firsthand experience in the form of preparing for or undertaking an evacuation was also associated with a higher level of mitigation. Finally, homeowners who perceived higher levels of wildfire risk on their property had undertaken higher levels of wildfire-risk mitigation on their property.


Risk-reduction behaviors Wildfire risk Homeowner behavior Wildland–urban interface Survey 



We thank Tony Simons and Eric Philips for providing local expertise on the study counties. Boulder and Larimer counties funded the data collection. This study was also funded by the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado, Boulder and the United States Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station (Grant No. 10-CR-11221636-246).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah Brenkert-Smith
    • 1
  • Patricia A. Champ
    • 2
  • Nicholas Flores
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Behavioral ScienceUniversity of Colorado, UCB 483BoulderUSA
  2. 2.Rocky Mountain Research StationUS Forest ServiceFort CollinsUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Colorado, UCB 256BoulderUSA

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