Fire Communication & Education
Presentations will be April 14, 21, and 28 and May 5 and 12 at 10 am PDT.
Wildfire ravaged much of the western United States in 2020. Towns were destroyed, homes and businesses evacuated, forests incinerated, and lives lost. In Oregon, vast swaths of rural communities like Talent and Detroit were devastated by sweeping megafires. But every Oregonian was impacted by widespread evacuations, life-threatening smoke, damage to vineyards and other crops, and staggering costs siphoning critical tax dollars away from other essential public services. As with all matters related to climate change, the greatest impacts were on our most vulnerable communities: low-income families, communities of color, the sick, the elderly, and the young. These megafires also accelerated their climate effects, with carbon emissions from wildfires in the U.S. alone increasing 30% over the previous year. The 2020 season was the latest record-breaking year in the West, continuing a 20-year trend that is only worsening. But there is hope. As wildfire impacts broaden, so has the coalition of parties seeking solutions. Small town mayors and tribal leaders, experts in public health and social justice, CEOs and scientists are speaking up. World Forestry Center is convening representatives from this broadening coalition in a five-part virtual summit focused on the Oregon example.
Description: Wildfire is an annual threat for many rural communities in the Pacific Northwest. In some severe events, evacuation is one potential course of action to gain safety from an advancing wildfire. Since most evacuations occur in a personal vehicle along the surrounding road network, the quality of this network is a critical component of a community’s vulnerability to wildfire. This webinar details a regional-scale screening of wildfire evacuation vulnerability that was completed for 696 Oregon and Washington rural towns.
Speaker: Alex Dye, Oregon State University
This is the first in a series of Wildfire Prevention Summits. This premiere event will examine the four primary causes (Arson, Accidental, Roadside & Utility Infrastructure) of wildfire ignitions with a focus on Roadside and Utility Infrastructure ignitions in the Western United States. The intent of the Summit is to provide a venue for an exchange of dialogue regarding current issues, best practices and emerging solutions on wildfire prevention. Our speakers and panels will provide a national perspective while discussing regional, statewide and local initiatives. Fire safety professionals from around the world who are involved in wildfire protection and prevention are encouraged to attend this summit.
In 2018, in response to calls from Congress to accelerate cross-boundary fire hazard reduction and improve forest resilience, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) published the Shared Stewardship Strategy (USFS 2018). The document emphasizes partnership with the states, Tribes, and collaborative partners in order to identify priority areas for management, coordinate work across jurisdictions, and leverage diverse capacities. Key aspects of the
Strategy are as follows: 1) working with states to set priorities, particularly through State Forest Action Plans (SFAPs), share in the ownership of risks presented by fire, and coordinate planning and action; 2) using a suite of scientific tools to model and map fire risk, largely through Scenario Investment Planning processes (Ager et al. 2019), to identify the most strategic places to invest in forest management; 3) utilizing tools such as the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA), stewardship contracts, and categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to facilitate and accelerate forest management work; and 4) pursuing other related goals, such as working with stakeholders to develop outcome-based performance indicators, streamline internal agency processes, and expand the use of risk management principles in fire management.
As our societies grow and change, the wildland fire community has to continue to evolve in its workforce and practices to better meet the expectations place upon it. Although the thought of and having diversity, equity, and inclusion conversations can be challenging, they represent opportunities for each of us to engage and lead from where we are. This session will focus on learning through sharing stories and experiences to provoke introspection problem solving.
View the plan.
The Strategic Plan also defines critical, core fire science capabilities for understanding fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns and informing management decision making. The Strategic Plan is composed of four integrated priorities, each with associated goals and specific strategies for accomplishing the goals:
- Priority 1: Produce state-of-the-art, actionable fire science.—Provide scientific analyses, data, and tools that inform current and future fire and land management decision making and promote understanding of fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns.
- Priority 2: Engage stakeholders in science production and science delivery.—Use a science co-production approach throughout the fire research life cycle to develop and maintain collaborations with stakeholders who are actively and continually engaged. This ensures that USGS research platforms and science products are relevant and useful for fire and land management decision making.
- Priority 3: Effectively communicate USGS fire science capacity, products, and information to a broad audience.— Strategically manage communications to effectively build awareness of and access to USGS wildland fire science and decision-support tools among key external and internal stakeholders.
- Priority 4: Enhance USGS organizational structure and advance support for fire science.—Provide organizational structure and support that improves fire science production, coordination, and cooperation within the USGS and with external partners.
Our research was guided by the general question, does a near-miss wildfire influence residents’ perceptions and self-reported fire risk mitigation behaviors? Specifically, we examined the cognitive appraisals and physical risk factors influencing residents’ previous and planned mitigation actions both before and after the fire. Our findings show risk perceptions declined significantly after the fire while residents’ intentions to take nine different fire risk mitigation actions increased. These results suggest near-miss fire events result in simultaneous “let-downs” and “wake-up calls” among affected residents. Near-miss wildfires present a unique opportunity for wildfire community preparedness, outreach, and engagement programs to capitalize on an increased willingness to take risk mitigation actions. However, these programs may face difficulties in communicating the continued threat of subsequent fire events.
The actions of residents in the wildland–urban interface can influence the private and social costs of wildfire. Wildfire programs that encourage residents to take action are often delivered without evidence of effects on behavior. Research from the field of behavioral science shows that simple, often low-cost changes to program design and delivery can influence socially desirable behaviors. In this research report, we highlight how behavioral science and experimental design may advance efforts to increase wildfire risk mitigation on private property. We offer an example in which we tested changes in outreach messaging on property owners’ interest in wildfire risk
information. In partnership with a regional wildfire organization, we mailed 4564 letters directing property owners to visit personalized wildfire risk webpages. By tracking visitation, we observed that 590 letter recipients (12%) sought information about their wildfire risk and response varied by community. This research–practice collaboration has three benefits: innovation in outreach, evidence of innovation through experimental design, and real impacts on interest in wildfire mitigation among property owners. Future collaborations may inform behavioral and evidence-based programs to better serve residents and the public interest as the risks from wildfires are projected to grow.
- Articulate successful applications of Good Neighbor Authority for tribes, counties, and states;
- Provide examples of when tools like Good Neighbor Authority are unlikely to be successful;
- Discuss how to use tools from the Tribal Forest Protection Act;
- Discuss how to use tools from the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act; and
- Discuss how to use Stewardship Contracting.
- Rob Farrell, Virginia State Forester;
- Jim Durglo, Intertribal Timber Council Wildland Fire Technical Specialist;
- Lynn Sholty, USDA Forest Service Grants and Agreements Specialist; and
- Nils Christoffersen, Wallowa Resources Executive Director.
Wildfire risk is shared across landscapes, ownerships, and administrative boundaries. Consequently, successful efforts to mitigate this risk depend on coordination of individual and collective actions across sets of public and private institutions and individuals associated with managing components of fire-prone landscapes. We need to understand how these diverse sets of actors, including individual residents, communities, non-profit organizations, and local, state, tribal, and federal agencies can and do interact and make decisions that affect fire and risk based on their rules, processes and social norms. Initiated in 2017, the Co-Management of Wildfire Risk Transmission Partnership (CoMFRT) brings together wildfire researchers, practitioners and decisionmakers to co-produce knowledge and actionable recommendations to support people and institutions successfully working together across scales and circumstances to best mitigate fire risk and build adaptation to wildfire. This presentation will provide an overview of the CoMFRT Partnership, key results and recommendations to date, and next steps all designed to underscore approaches for a variety of actors responsible for managing wildfire risk to better live with fire.