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Risk-Risk Tradeoffs and Prescribed Burning Decisions in Colorado

Collaborative research assessing how the impacts and perceived risks of prescribed burns (Rx burns) influence support for expanded Rx burning to mitigate wildfire risk



Wildfires and their environmental and social impacts are growing in the US and around the world. Prescribed (Rx) burning can be an effective management technique to reduce vegetation and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Despite its potential benefits, the annual extent of Rx burning has stayed the same or decreased across much of the country in recent years. This is due in part to the fact that Rx burning entails its own risks, including smoke exposure and the possibility of a planned fire escaping control. Making Rx burning decisions requires making informed tradeoffs between these risks and the risks associated with uncontrolled wildfires. To inform these decisions, this project assesses two key questions. First, how do decisions by those who implement Rx burning and by residents in nearby communities shape potential Rx burning impacts? To answer this question, we will take measurements near a large number of Rx burn sites over time, capturing information such as how much smoke residents near Rx burns are exposed to and whether experience with Rx burning influences support for this management approach. Second, how do perceived risk-risk tradeoffs influence support for expanded Rx burning to mitigate wildfire risk among wildland-urban interface (WUI) and non-WUI residents? To answer this question, we will survey residents in WUI and non-WUI areas to understand risk perceptions and policy support. Understanding these tradeoffs is critical to shaping risk management policy. 

If you are interested in learning whether you and your household could be a part of our household measurement study, please click here.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Decision, Risk, and Management Sciences and Humans, Disasters, and the Built Environment programs.

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