Panel Paper: Entry Points for Wildfire Risk Management Interventions in California

Saturday, April 13, 2019
Continuing Education Building - Room 2050 (University of California, Irvine)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Rebecca Miller, Stanford University

Recent catastrophic wildfire seasons in California have demonstrated the importance of community wildfire preparation in saving lives and property. Communities in California maintain autonomy in the policies and practices surrounding wildfire preparation, including establishing evacuation routes and running evacuation drills, clearing flammable material around homes, and mandating fire-resistant building code standards. Although local communities retain this sovereignty, the federal and state governments can incentivize local governments to implement preparedness policies and practices. Here, I examine entry points for the state and federal government to influence local government and community-organized wildfire planning in California. I identify incentives and policy levers used by the state and federal governments for environmental risk management at the local level including (1) funding opportunities, (2) legal mandates, and (3) collaboration with other government entities. In addition, I consider how communities become motivated to plan and prepare for a wildfire. This community-based analysis incorporates community-scale action, ambition, and outcomes from the Firewise USA (a fire-adaptive certification program) and Fire Safe Councils (organizations established by concerned citizens to protect local communities) in California. This research explores the role of different levels of government in influencing local preparedness efforts and how local citizens react to their wildfire risk. These findings are particularly critical in the context of the 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons in order to understand how local stakeholders and policymakers design and implement wildfire prevention and preparedness policies and practices that enable communities to mitigate their wildfire hazard. These results may also inform future state and local policies surrounding hazard mitigation for wildfires and other types of natural disasters.