Comprehensive survey reveals gaps in wildfire risk mitigation knowledge in California and Oregon

July 2, 2024
Wildfire haze

NFPA wildfire risk survey reveals residents’ knowledge and motivation

As reported by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a recent survey commissioned by the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) highlighted the perceptions of wildfire risks and mitigation efforts among residents, fire departments, and local governments in California and Oregon.

The final report, titled “Stakeholder Perceptions of Wildfire Mitigation for Homes: Multi-Audience Survey Research,” emphasized the need for improved education on wildfire risk reduction and increased access to critical information and resources.

The survey revealed that only half of the residents were aware of specific actions to reduce wildfire risk, and less than half (43 percent) knew where to find helpful resources.

Furthermore, only three percent of residents were aware of government grants, insurance discounts, and other incentives to support wildfire risk reduction.

Those who utilized these incentives were more likely to undertake various safety measures.

Michele Steinberg, director of the Wildfire Division at NFPA, commented on the survey results: “While the survey shows that residents overwhelmingly understand their wildfire risks, few people are conducting all the measures needed to mitigate them, and most aren’t doing the work as often as they should.

“We need to pull all available levers to help motivate residents to action.”

Key findings of the wildfire survey

Key findings from the survey indicated that 79 percent of residents were at least somewhat motivated to learn more about wildfire mitigation, with 25 percent being very motivated.

Most residents had engaged in vegetation maintenance measures, with 79 to 91 percent performing such measures at some point and 63 to 79 percent doing so at least once a year.

The survey also found that 76 percent of jurisdictions cited insufficient resources and funding to aid property owners, with 83 percent identifying this lack as a major obstacle.

More fire departments had programs to assist with vegetation management (52 percent) compared to home hardening and structure modification (35 percent).

Among the more encouraging results, residents who value the privacy and natural setting of the wildland urban interface (WUI) do not view mitigation efforts as problematic.

These residents are highly engaged in wildfire risk reduction efforts.

Those educated about wildfire risk and mitigation are motivated to learn more and are more likely to take on risk reduction projects.

NFPA’s response and future plans

NFPA will utilize the survey findings to develop information and messaging aimed at better motivating residents to reduce wildfire risks.

The organization aims to address the persistent obstacles that hinder proactive engagement in wildfire mitigation.

Steinberg added: “Overall, the survey findings offer a mix of encouraging information about what motivates residents to mitigate wildfire risks on and around their homes, along with persistent obstacles that tend to hold them back.

“These results help identify ways to increase participation in wildfire risk reduction and where we need to break through barriers, with the ultimate goal of empowering residents to become more proactively engaged in wildfire mitigation.”

The wildfire survey was conducted by EurekaFacts, LLC, targeting government officials, local fire departments, and residents in California and Oregon, states that both face elevated wildfire risks.

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