The WiRē team has a proven history with implementing a tiered wildfire risk assessment approach to inform wildfire education programs administered through the West Region Wildfire Council and FireWise of Southwest Colorado. This systematic collection of parcel level wildfire risk and social data for an entire community sets the approach apart from other models of wildfire risk assessment. At the core of our approach are two datasets:
- The rapid wildfire risk assessment is based on attributes related to building materials, vegetation near the home, background fuels and topography, as well as access for the fire department to the parcel. The rapid assessment serves as an indicator of relative risk of parcels within a community rather than an absolute measure of risk.
- Following the rapid assessment, social surveys are administered to the residents of the assessed parcels to investigate homeowners’ perceptions of wildfire risk, risk mitigation behaviors, and responses to incentives to mitigate risk.
The paired rapid assessment/social survey data provide important, community-specific insights such as gaps in risk perceptions, how residents will respond to incentives (e.g. cost share programs) to mitigate risk, the relative influence of different wildfire risk information sources, and the effects of neighbors on mitigation actions. The data inform wildfire education programs to facilitate adaptation in a manner specific to the unique characteristics of the community and make the best use of scarce wildfire mitigation and education funds. Systematic data collection also provides a baseline to monitor changes in the biophysical and social measures over time.
An underlying philosophy of this approach is that wildfire practitioners will develop better programs if they participate in the data collection process and share the results with their communities. Experience has shown that sharing the results of the tiered assessment with the community provides a common platform for constructive discussion about adapting to wildfire. Therefore, we focus on collaborative processes.
We also emphasize systematic data collection, which allows for compilation and comparison of data across communities. This facilitates analysis to provide insights across space and time with respect to wildfire risk on private land and the characteristics, knowledge, experience of the people who live on those parcels.