Canadian Forest Service Publications

Incentives and barriers to homeowners’ uptake of FireSmart® Canada’s recommended wildfire mitigation activities in the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta. 2022. Asfaw, H.W.; Christianson, A. C.; Watson, D.O.T. Fire 5(3): 80.

Year: 2022

Issued by: Northern Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 41032

Language: English

Availability: PDF (download)

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This paper presents the results of a survey that was undertaken to examine homeowners’ FireSmart mitigation practices and investigate existing incentives and barriers to uptake of FireSmart Canada’s recommended wildfire mitigation activities in the Urban Service Area of Fort McMurray Alberta. Single-family residential property owners, the large majority of whom were affected by the Horse River wildfire, were invited to participate in an online survey. A total of 496 surveys were completed, with a response rate of 38%. We found that most of the participants generally perceive a low to moderate wildfire risk to their properties: they felt there was a low chance of a catastrophic fire happening soon and/or ‘enough’ had already been done to reduce the immediate risk. Although about half of the participants searched for information about FireSmart, having information or knowledge of FireSmart did not translate into substantial adoption of recommended mitigation actions. Survey participants generally preferred and implemented more of the low-cost, low effort mitigation measures such as cutting grasses and cleaning debris, likely for reasons other than wildfire risk reduction. With regard to structural measures, we found asphalt shingles and vinyl siding were present on the majority of homes; although this was not a choice but was provided by the builder or on the home when it was purchased. Very few respondents were willing to replace their siding or roof—-the cost was the single biggest factor. In addition, we identified several other factors as negatively influencing homeowners’ mitigation actions, including the tendency to shift responsibility to the municipal government and social pressure such as neighbors not being as proactive in completing FireSmart mitigation measures. Recommendations that may help promote positive wildfire mitigation behaviors are discussed.

Plain Language Summary

FireSmart is a program run by a non-profit organization to help people protect their homes from wildfires. A survey was sent to homeowners in the Fort MacMurray region about FireSmart. In particular to find out how aware they are of the program, where they heard of it, and if they are following the guidelines of the program. They were also asked how likely they would be to follow each guideline in the future. Basic demographic data was collected to check if any sector is different in response than closely associated sectors, for example male/female. The paper provides important insights into how FireSmart is known and used. This would be useful in preparing communication strategies to gain wider acceptance and thus better fire protection in wildland urban interface communities.