Skip to main content
Article
Causal Reasoning Processes of People Affected by Wildfire: Implications for Agency-Community Interactions and Communication Strategies
Western Journal of Applied Forestry
  • Yoshitaka Kumagai, Washington State University
  • Steven E. Daniels, Utah State University
  • Matthew S. Carroll, Washington State University
  • John C. Bliss, Oregon State University
  • John A. Edwards, Oregon State University
Document Type
Article
Publication Date
1-1-2004
Publisher
Society of American Foresters
Abstract
Fire officials are dismayed when victims of wildfire blame fire fighters and others responsible for fire management for damage resulting from uncontrolled fires. This is in spite of the fact that wildfire damage is a consequence of dynamic interactions among natural factors (wind, temperature, location of wildfire, topography, etc.) and human factors (past land management, promptness of firefighting activities, extent of homeowners' defensible space, etc.). Fire and land managers do not typically understand why and how the victims arrive at such oversimplified, and in some cases inaccurate, conclusions about wildfire causation. Attribution theory in social psychology provides a framework for understanding the mechanisms of these blaming processes. In this study, both quantitative and qualitative approaches were used to explore how people who live in wildfire hazard zones and experienced wildfire, perceive the causes of wildfire damage. In the spring of 1999, a prefire survey was conducted in the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, an area where numerous wildfires are recorded nearly every year. This was followed by a postfire survey in two communities that actually experienced a fire that season. In addition, qualitative interviews were carried out in these two affected communities. Results suggest that people who experienced wildfire tended to attribute the cause of wildfire damage to factors associated with fire officials and nature and did not attribute fire damage to their own actions (or inactions). The implications of these attributions are discussed as are recommendations for future fire education and communication.
Comments
Originally published by the Society of American Foresters. Publisher's PDF available through remote link.
Citation Information
Kumagai, Y., S.E. Daniels, M.S. Carroll and J.C. Bliss. 2004. Social-psychological reactions to wildfire: Implications for agency-community interactions and communication strategies. Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 19(3):184-194