Public Perceptions of Wildfire Risk and Forest Management in the Central Pine Barrens of Long Island

From the Source: 

“Wildfire risk is increasing as more people move into wildland-urban inner-face areas, such as the pitch pine barrens of the Northeastern United States. However, little is known about local residents’ perceptions of wildfire risk or their reaction to management efforts such as prescribed fire to reduce the danger of catastrophic wildfires. This study in the Central Pine Barrens of Long Island, New York (USA) looked at the relationships between previous experience with wildland fire, level of knowledge about forest management to reduce fire danger and attitudes toward implementing these strategies in local forests. The results of a mail-out survey of 135 residents living in at-risk neighborhoods found that over half of the respondents had experienced a wildfire yet still perceived only a mid-level of risk to their own property. Public perceptions of risk were positively influenced by residents’ previous experience with wildfire as well as their understanding of their homes’ specific landscape setting (i.e., proximity to large forested areas and surrounding density of vegetation). Unlike other natural disasters, wildfire was perceived to be a human-caused hazard that can be managed and controlled by local fire officials. The more familiarity and knowledge local resident had about such hazard reduction strategies as prescribed fire, the more supportive and less concerned they were about such issues like smoke. While the study found a strong level of trust in local fire officials to suppress wildfires, local residents wanted more public involvement and participation in fire hazard reduction planning. The study points to the need to engage local residents in wildfire planning and to increase outreach about wildland fire risk and management options.”