How did the WiRē Team come to be?

The WiRē Team came into existence organically, evolving from the ideas of several passionate wildfire practitioners and researchers. Initially, we were individuals who happened to be working on related projects. Through the synergy of our efforts, we formed a highly productive team to work together on a Joint Fire Sciences funded project. Although that funding has since ended, the WiRē Team has developed into an ongoing, long-term collaboration. In addition, the WiRē Team knows its work is far from done, and there are many possibilities for building on the foundational research. The researchers have found that working in partnership with the practitioners improves their science by changing how they view problems and ask questions. Likewise, the practitioners recognize the benefits of science-based, programmatic changes that help them understand and quantify programmatic outcomes.  

How did the WiRē Center come to be?

The WiRē Center is an outgrowth of the WiRē Team that focuses on the service of helping communities and practitioners implement the WiRē Team’s systematic data collection and integration approach to provide insights into the unique local contexts. The WiRē Team envisioned the creation of the WiRē Center after successfully implementing the WiRē approach for several communities in Colorado. The Team realized many other communities could benefit from their innovative approach; however, the lengthy research funding model encumbers timely response to communities wishing to work with the WiRe team. For this reason, the WiRē Center was created to establish the financial and intellectual resources to be more responsive to the many communities interested in employing this approach. The WiRē Center provides the avenue through which communities and practitioners can access the expertise of the WiRē Team and implement the WiRē approach.

TheWiRē Center’s core concepts are backed by a combination of experience and research:

  • Residents (homeowners as well as renters) are critical actors in the wildland-urban interface wildfire problem. Their lives and properties are exposed to the wildfire hazard, and they can take actions to reduce their risk. Our goal is to use social science to foster understanding for the development of effective wildfire education programs that result in behavioral change.
  • Action is central to adaptation. We primarily focus on wildfire risk mitigation actions that reduce risk on private land. Actions (or behaviors) are related to attitudes and perceptions, therefore we are interested in all three.
  • People and their decisions are complex. We emphasize the value of conducting social science and using it to guide programs and policy. Conventional wisdom and “common sense” can be misleading. Local social data foster understanding of the community and context in which residents make decisions and can inform the development of effective programs.
  • Decisions are not made in a vacuum. Social and situational context matter. Many aspects of social context relate to decisions. People are influenced by neighbor interactions, community-level actions and programs, and local experts. The WiRē approach attends to the differences across contexts while also pursuing broader understandings.