Dan berkman human dimensions of wildland fire conference seattle wa
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Best Practices for Interacting with the P ublic about W ildland F ire: Key F indings from Interviews PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Dan Berkman Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference Seattle, WA. Best Practices for Interacting with the P ublic about W ildland F ire: Key F indings from Interviews . Background. Fire suppression policies -ladder fuels Climate change -earlier melting snowpack

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Best Practices for Interacting with the P ublic about W ildland F ire: Key F indings from Interviews

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Dan Berkman

Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference

Seattle, WA

Best Practices for Interacting with the Public about Wildland Fire: Key Findings from Interviews


  • Fire suppression policies

    -ladder fuels

  • Climate change

    -earlier melting snowpack

    -drier fuel conditions

    -Mountain Pine Beetle

  • Expansion of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI)

    -growing population

    -higher costs of suppression

    -defensible space

Western Regional Climate Center

Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center


  • To produce an annotated bibliography for fire managers that will integrate the known published literature with practical field experience from individuals who work in the field of wildland fire education and communication.

US Forest Service


  • Participants were selected through a snowball sampling technique (Goodman 1961).

  • A diverse range of geography, agency and positions were sought.

  • Interviews lasted approximately 45-60 minutes and were conversation style.

  • Basic content analysis techniques were used to find common themes and insightful feedback (Strauss and Corbin 1998).

Summary results

  • 45 total interviews

  • US Forest Service regions

US Forest Service

Answers to questions geared toward work experience

Overall goal(s) when working with the public

Key themes from respondents:

  • Give accurate and concise information

  • Be honest

  • Be proactive with local communities

  • Show visuals

    “It is important to get a clear message across. Be honest and not condescending.” -Fire Management Officer


The most effective and least effective tools

Most Effective:

  • Face to face contact

  • Good relationship with local media

  • Inciweb

    “Inciweb is like one stop shopping where all incidents are posted. It is a way to magnify our presence to a larger audience.” -Public Information Officer

    Least Effective:

  • Just using one tool in toolbox (written guidelines, social media)

National Interagency Fire Center

Influence of social media

Key Themes:

  • Polarizing issue

  • The challenge is to juggle the new

    available technology without losing the personal touch.

  • Rumor central?


    “The public wants and desires up-to-date information, which is a good thing as long as you can give out ‘real time needs’.” -Fire Education Specialist

Lessons learned

Key Themes:

  • Remember human side of work

  • Public wants to be heard and listened to

  • Working with local agencies with help with external

    communication efforts


    “Remember you are a guest in their community. Be a person, not a government worker. Build trust and make common connections with people.”

    -Public Information Officer

Wall Street Journal

Answers to questions geared toward the formatting and content of the annotated bibliography

Knowledge gaps in fire managers

Key Themes:

  • Officers are not out in the field enough

  • Need to know fire ecology

  • Use common language

  • Need understanding of the Incident Command System


    “You have to be a believable manager. You have to go out in the field and see what is being talked about.” -Fire and Aviation Management Officer

National Interagency Fire Center

Practicality and format

Key Themes:

  • Keep short and concise

  • Easy to read articles

  • Multimedia


    “Line officers do not read much anymore. Sometimes we read executive summaries. Mostly we want quick and easily accessible reads.” -Fire Information Officer


Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center

Layout of bibliography: 105 total articles

The bibliography has been divided into the following main sections:

1) Introduction to Wildland Fire Ecology and History

2) Understanding Social Changes along the Wildland Urban Interface

3) Perception of Wildland Fire and Policy

4) Long Term Planning and Resiliency

Example table for a subsection

Main conclusions

Best Practices

  • Be honest and accurate with information.

  • Important to build relationships with communities prior to events.

  • The most effective tool is face-to-face, personal communication with the public.

    Content and Format of Bibliography

  • Geared toward information and line officers new to the field of fire management.

  • Short and concise content. Easy to read articles and visuals.


Anne Black (RMRS)

Dick Bahr (NPS)

Vita Wright (RMRS/NPS)

Mark Ashton (Yale F&ES)

Ann Camp (Yale F&ES)


all those interviewed!

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