Skip to main content
Left Out from Wildfires Mitigation: Does University’s Population Think Different?
13th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit & 4th Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire (2015)
  • Thomas Wuerzer, Boise State University

This research presents a novel perspective on college students and their risk perception in a fire prone US State; Idaho. Idaho was “top #1” by acreage in 2012 with approximate 15% of all US burned lands; in 2013 “top #2”. Past studies have conducted surveys on residents in high wildfire risk communities to learn what factors make homeowners more likely to engage in mitigation activities and therefore increase communities’ resiliency. This research emphasis is on a population that deals with the threat of fire but is likely less invested through property ownership and other investment of risk; yet, equally threatened in quality of life. Are college students the left-out population in the ‘planning for wildfires’ and its communication process? Main hypothesis is that a college population will have a different perception and awareness (and therefore mitigation actions) than i.e. residents invested in the wild land urban interface (WUI). Dominant research methodologies in past studies are identified as surveys, focus groups, or interviews focusing on homeowners in fire prone areas that have witnessed wildfire or are exposed to increasing fire risk. Yet again, research on population that has no property ownership, investments at stake, and therefore no direct monetary values associated (but potentially non-monetary), is found little to none in these studies. The university population based study and its findings offers a contrast to current literature related to these traditional residents surveys/interviews. The study’s survey and interactive spatial assessment of risk perception with allocation of perceived hazards zones promotes understanding of where risk is apparent for participants. Results are used to inform agencies such as campus emergency management, regional wild fire mitigation efforts, and to enhance public communication. Lessons learned include the challenges of a comprehensive inclusion process when mitigating for hazards and building resiliency in a region with development pressures.

  • wildfire,
  • college students,
  • risk perception,
  • wildland urban interface
Publication Date
April 23, 2015
Citation Information
Thomas Wuerzer. "Left Out from Wildfires Mitigation: Does University’s Population Think Different?" 13th International Wildland Fire Safety Summit & 4th Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire (2015)
Available at: