Wildfire Perception and Community Change Academic Article uri icon


  • Given increasing political and financial commitments to wildfire preparedness, risk policy demands that risk identification, assessment, and mitigation activities are balanced among diverse resident groups. Essential for this is the understanding of residents' perceptions of wildfire risks. This study compares wildfire-risk perceptions of Pennsylvania residents with those of Minnesotans living in natural-amenity-rich communities. Natural-amenity-driven migration shifts land-use patterns and social conditions, making it important to understand if and how such changes affect residents' perceptions of wildfire. Key informant interviews suggest land use and contrasting values associated with sociodemographic shifts were intertwined with wildfire-risk awareness, concern, and mitigation. In both study areas, local social interactions were impaired by geospatial and sociocultural barriers related to land use and population change. Barriers included perceived threats to quality of life, conflicting needs for economic development, and homes built in isolated locations. As a result, residents did not agree on community-wide notions of wildfire risk and response. Further, residents' ideas about the potential for a wildfire disaster did not correspond to those of risk managers. Although some places were attempting to overcome these challenges, many informants said their communities were overwhelmed with the effects of change. Finding common notions of wildfire risk is critical precisely because resident participation is crucial to hazard management. In these localities, rural community development can facilitate capacities to address wildfire risk in the context of landscape and social change. Copyright 2010, by the Rural Sociological Society.

published proceedings

  • Rural Sociology

author list (cited authors)

  • Gordon, J. S., Matarrita-Cascante, D., Stedman, R. C., & Luloff, A. E.

citation count

  • 30

complete list of authors

  • Gordon, Jason S||Matarrita-Cascante, David||Stedman, Richard C||Luloff, AE

publication date

  • September 2010