Fire Communication & Education

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Interactional approach to adaptive capacity: Researching adaptation in socially diverse, wildfire prone communities

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This article outlines an approach for understanding the ways that local social context influences differential community adaptation to wildfire risk. I explain how my approach drew from Wilkinson’s interactional theory of community during various stages of its evolution and describe a series of advancements developed while extending the theory to promote collective action for wildfire. Extensions of Wilkinson’s work include organizing a range of adaptive capacity characteristics that help document differential community capacity for wildfire adaptation, introduction of “community archetypes” that reflect patterns of key adaptive capacity characteristics across cases, and development of fire adaptation “pathways” – combinations of policies, actions, and programs tailored to a range of community conditions.

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How an evidence-based approach to community-focused wildfire education programs can put people at the center of wildfire solutions

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This seminar builds of the March 9, 2023 “Community-focused programs, datasets, and planning resources for wildfire risk mitigation” seminar (presenters: Greg Dillon, Eva Karau, Kelly Pohl) by focusing on how to support creation of fire-resilient communities. In particular, the presentation will highlight how the paired parcel risk and social data approach developed by the Wildfire Research (WiRē) Team supports action on private land parcels, across parcels within a community, and across boundaries to nearby public land. The WiRē Team is an established interagency research-practice team that provides wildfire mitigation and research expertise, data collection tools, and products for community wildfire education and mitigation programs.

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Community-focused programs, datasets, and planning resources for wildfire risk mitigation

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Much of the current dialogue around mitigating wildfire risk to people and property in the United States focuses on vegetation treatments to reduce fuel loads on public lands. There is good reason for that – responsible management of lands within their jurisdiction is embedded within the mission of the Forest Service and other land management agencies. However, we can conceptualize wildfire risk to the built environment as having three primary components: likelihood of wildfire occurrence, intensity if a fire occurs, and susceptibility of an asset (e.g., a structure) to being damaged by a fire. Under this framing, treating fuels on public lands, sometimes far away from assets at risk, has a limited ability to reduce the likelihood and intensity of fire at the location of those assets, and has no effect on the susceptibility of the assets to damage. Conversely mitigation actions that have the greatest leverage on wildfire risk to built assets include reduction of fuels immediately adjacent to the asset and physical measures that can reduce the ignitability of a building. Examples of this include implementing Home Ignition Zone principles and using fire-resistant building materials. In this seminar, we will share examples of work happening within, or funded by, the Forest Service to foster these types of locally-focused mitigation actions and underscore the importance of these actions in the broader scope of the Wildfire Crisis Strategy.

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Integrating rangeland fire planning and management: The scales, actors, and processes

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In this forum, we discuss current institutional arrangements that perpetuate scale mismatches in this system (i.e., institutional objectives, authorities, and capacities that limit coordinated actions to mitigate collective wildfire risk). We make a case for fireshed-scale coordination via rangeland Fireshed Councils, a proposed rangeland and fire planning and management unit that has both biophysical and social relevance to individuals and organizations engaged in fire risk mitigation. A rangeland Fireshed Council offers a venue for diverse group members to mix and match their respective rules and tools to navigate institutional barriers and capacity challenges in new ways. Operating in a collective arrangement at this scale aims to ensure that an individual’s or entity’s activities transcend traditional modes of planning (i.e., parcel-scale), complement concurrent management activities, and translate to fire-resilient landscapes and human communities. Rangeland Fireshed Councils will require resources and support from high governance levels for sustainability and legitimacy, as well as relative autonomy to determine how best to support local needs.

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Looking toward the future

Webinar recording.
The fifth webinar of the Forest Service’s Research and Development SCIENCEx FIRE week.

Looking Towards the Future

Historical and Future Fire in Temperate Rainforest ​of the Pacific Northwest |​ Matt Reilly
Assessing Wildfire Risk for Strategic Forest Management Decision-Making in the Southern US |​ Sandhya Nepal
Wrap-Up |​ Jens Stevens

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Themes and patterns in print media coverage of wildfires in the US, Canada, and Australia: 1986-2016

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Our results reveal that: (1) wildfire media coverage has increased over the past 30 years; (2) coverage is more varied than the common perspective, i.e. media continues to portray fires in a negative light; and (3) topic coverage varies significantly between countries.

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FireEarth: Understanding what makes people vulnerable to wildfire

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This StoryMap is an overview of some of the work undertaken by FireEarth scientists, serving as an introduction to the project. FireEarth is not a standalone endeavor, as the work draws on past and concurrent efforts in the field of wildfire science, which are referenced when applicable.

The StoryMap is organized around 13 main sections: 1) About the FireEarth StoryMap, 2) An Introduction to Wildfire, 3) FireEarth’s Goal, 4) Cascading Consequences of Fire, 5) Erosion and Runoff, 6) Cascading Consequence: Fire Intensity Impacts, 7) Regional Hydro-Ecologic Simulation System (RHESSys), 8) Smoke and Air Pollution, 9) Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Wildfire, 10) Community Adaptation to Fire, 11) Biomimicry: Copying Nature to Coexist with Fire, 12) Conclusion, and 13) All FireEarth-Supported Papers.

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New types of investments needed to address barriers to scaling up wildfire risk mitigation

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This analysis reveals that investing in collaborative capacity to advance agency-agency partnerships and public engagement might not slow down mitigation, but rather enable agencies to “go slow to go fast” by building the support and mechanisms necessary to increase the pace and scale of mitigation work. Reframing the wildfire problem through a careful analysis of competing frames and the underlying assumptions that privilege particular solutions can reveal a broader suite of solutions that address the range of key barriers.

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Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool

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This tool is called the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. The tool has an interactive map and uses datasets that are indicators of burdens in eight categories: climate change, energy, health, housing, legacy pollution, transportation, water and wastewater, and workforce development. The tool uses this information to identify communities that are experiencing these burdens. These are the communities that are disadvantaged because they are overburdened and underserved.


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Strategic partnerships to leverage small wins for fine fuels management

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In this Research-Partnership Highlight, we argue that private-public partners in such settings must be strategic in their selection of tasks to generate “small wins” in order to build the trust, competency, and legitimacy needed to advance an approach for landscape-scale fine fuels management. We highlight a fine fuels reduction partnership consisting of public and private entities in southeastern Oregon that established a research and education project and applied dormant season grazing on three pastures within the Vale District Bureau of Land Management. We describe the impetus for the partnership, antecedents, strategic tactics, and ongoing learning and reflection used to revise processes. In this example, implementing dormant season grazing as a research and education project allowed the partners to assess the efficaciousness of the treatment, as well as the operational logistics and administrative competencies necessary to apply the treatment to manage fine fuels at broader scales. Because dormant season grazing may, in some instances, conflict with established practices and norms, small-scale projects such as this allow partners to refine understandings of the social and administrative conditions that make implementation possible. Generating small wins through projects such as this is a critical precursor for partnerships seeking to take on larger, more complex endeavors that involve increasing ecological, economic, and social uncertainty.

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