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Considering Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity in fire-prone communities along Colorado’s Front Range. Hannah Brenkert-Smith University of Colorado November 2011.

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Considering Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity in fire-prone communities along Colorado’s Front Range

Hannah Brenkert-Smith

University of Colorado

November 2011

in depth qualitative case studies in boulder larimer counties colorado

Community vulnerability to wildfire, both physical and social, was characterized fairly consistently within communities based on local understandings of:

  • the landscape
  • fire behavior
  • the extent of community-based capacity to respond to wildfire events
  • Consistency in framing/narrative of vulnerability within each community was linked to:
  • social networks
  • community interaction
  • residential status

In-depth qualitative case studies in Boulder & Larimer Counties, Colorado

in depth qualitative case studies in boulder larimer counties colorado1

Framing of response to wildfire primarily related to community-based capacity to respond to wildfire ignitions.

  • Communities w/o response/suppression resources characterize wildfire problem in terms of mitigation and reducing likelihood of ignitions.
    • Keeping fire out of landscape & coping
  • In contrast, communities w/ response resources characterize wildfire problem in terms of vigilance for ignitions, communication across the community, response & suppression resources, and providing support for organization and community members involved in response & suppression.
    • Allowing for fire within landscape & adaptation
  • Climate and changing environmental conditions were considered relevant only in relation to noticeable local effects: beetle kill spread from Western Slope to Front Range.

In-depth qualitative case studies in Boulder & Larimer Counties, Colorado

slide4

Survey of residential WUI households in Boulder and Larimer Counties 2007 (n=747) & 2010 (n=384 matched HH, 357 matched respondent)

Do we see evidence of attitude/belief/behavioral changes that would enable recovery, planning, and action in ways that address current and future risk (aka resilience or adaptation)?

Overall increased concern about property, landscape, health, pets, public lands (significant increase in concern re: respondents’ own house, property, and pets)

Increased focus on aspects of respondents’ own properties in contributing to wildfire risk – significant increase in believing that vegetation on their property and structural characteristics of their homes contribute to the chances of wildfire damages/losses (HIZ)

Significant decrease in believing that National Forest/Park or other public land contributes to chances of wildfire damage/loss

Despite no significant change in extent to which human activity or natural starts are contributors to chances of damages/losses – these are the factors respondents indicate contribute the most.

Overall increased attention to likelihood of damage & losses (significantly more likely to believe that there will be smoke or physical damage to home or home may be destroyed, and that fire may spread to public land or neighbors’ homes may be destroyed)

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Survey of residential WUI households in Boulder and Larimer Counties 2007 (n=747) & 2010 (n=384 matched HH, 357 matched respondent)

Overall increase in confidence in wildfire information sources (significant increases for local VFD and county wildfire experts)

Significant decrease in confidence in technology to control wildfires once they start

We see the thumbprint of the economic downturn on respondents’ reported obstacles to take action to reduce risk (Significantly more likely to report cost, time, and physical efforts as important considerations when deciding whether or not to implement risk reduction measures than in 2007).

Despite this, we see overall increase in wildfire mitigation activity (fuel reduction and structural improvement).

slide6

Increasing capacity beyond household & community levels

  • Boulder county-level Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP)
    • Links existing CWPPs, VFDs, County entities, & public land managers (2009)
  • West Boulder County Healthy Forest Initiative (2011)
    • Collaboration with Front Range Round Table
    • Links 6 CWPPs/VFDs
    • Landscape-level approach to fuel reduction
    • Targeting acres for which fuel reduction simultaneously accomplishes fire risk reduction & ecological restoration
  • Forest Improvement District Ballot Initiative (2011 election)
  • Expansion from Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) to larger scale efforts that hinge on HIZ efforts/success
  • None, however, explicitly address changing climate or future fire/forest conditions
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How much do each of the following contribute to current wildfire danger?

(Percent reporting each item “Contributes / A Lot”)

Difference in means – Paired Sample T Test

n=298 n=296 n=299 n=304

mean diff= -.128mean diff=.074 mean diff= .221 mean diff= -.161

p=.057 p=.256 p=.002** p=.003**