A Provisional Conceptual Model of Human Behavior in Response to Wildland-Urban Interface Fires


With more frequent and destructive wildfires occurring in the growing wildland-urban interface (WUI), the ability to ensure the safe evacuation of potentially large groups of people is of increasing importance. This is a challenging task made only more difficult by the fact that there is often little warning and that evacuations often need to take place in a short period of time. The creation of credible and effective evacuation models is needed within the fire safety engineering community to help address this challenge. Although potentially difficult to represent, a critical component in developing such models is the consideration of what people will do in response to a WUI fire. In this literature review, research relating to WUI fire evacuations was collected to identify the factors that influence protective action decision-making and response during these events, specifically whether someone chooses to evacuate or not. To supplement the findings, related hurricane evacuation literature was also reviewed for such factors. The factors that were identified relate to sociodemographic factors, social and environmental cues, preparation and experience, familial responsibilities, location, and credible threat and risk assessment. These factors were organized according to the Protective Action Decision Model (PADM) to create a conceptual model of protective action decision-making. This is the first step in being able to incorporate such factors and their corresponding impact on public response into comprehensive WUI evacuation models.

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Figure 1


  1. 1.

    WUI fire refer to wildfires/bushfires/forest fires that infringe upon the wildland-urban interface.

  2. 2.

    Wildfire research include that which referred to bushfires and forest fires.

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    Despite the practiced policy of evacuation in the United States, a number of studies suggest a growing number of people do not want or intend to evacuate automatically in the event of a wildfire and a small number of communities have looked into implementing a version of evacuation alternatives, primarily shelter in place [46, 59, 88, 89]. With that said, such cases are rare and such methods are still typically seen as a last resort if evacuation is not a possibility.


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The authors would like to thank Richard Peacock and Nelson Bryner from NIST for review of this article. This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Discovery Grant, the Society of Fire Protection Engineering (SFPE) Foundation Dr. Guylène Proulx OC Scholarship, and the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) graduate scholarship.

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Folk, L.H., Kuligowski, E.D., Gwynne, S.M.V. et al. A Provisional Conceptual Model of Human Behavior in Response to Wildland-Urban Interface Fires. Fire Technol 55, 1619–1647 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10694-019-00821-z

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  • Wildland urban interface
  • Wildfires
  • Hurricanes
  • Evacuation
  • Human behavior
  • Conceptual model