Social construct of fuels in the interface: final report for the social construction of fuels in the interface (project one)
The number of houses at risk of wildfire continues to increase around the world and researchers continue to search for ways to minimise loss. Many people inhabit fire‐prone areas across south eastern Australia and, despite the inherent risk of fire, choose to live in these areas for the amenity and lifestyle opportunities that these areas provide. This project was developed in order to identify and understand the features which residents' value most on their property and surrounds and if the same features contribute most to their bushfire hazard. Risk reduction measures pose dilemmas for many residents on urban margins. Such people place a high value on living close to bushland, for a host of reasons (e.g. visual, recreational and cultural amenity). Conflicts may arise between risk reduction policies and activities in and around bushland margins and the amenity that people derive from living in these places. For example, the clearance of or permanent structural alteration of vegetation may diminish visual amenity for local residents. Risk management at the urban interface may involve inherent trade‐offs between tangible (e.g. houses) and less tangible (e.g. human amenity, biodiversity) values. Such trade‐offs may be difficult to evaluate objectively, though some promising initiatives exist (e.g. Morehouse et al.2010). A major constraint on management of the interface is the disparity between policies targeted at preemptive hazard (fuel) reduction, typically promulgated by public fire management authorities, and the adoption and acceptance of such measures by the community. Such a disparity has been highlighted in recent research on peri‐urban communities (Eriksen 2010, Eriksen and Gill 2010). This project was aimed at addressing some of the questions arising from these potentially competing views. It employed a cutting edge combination of spatial and statistical analytical methods, resident interviews and elicitation. These confirmed and extended established approaches to the problem as previously employed in both Australia and overseas (e.g. the USA). The overall package of work was however, unique in dealing with quantitative determinants of risk of loss on the one hand and the viewpoints and impressions of residents concerning attitudes to their living environment and risk on the other. A major fire occurred in the Blue Mountains in October 2013. This followed soon after survey work in adjacent communities had been completed in winter 2013. Thus the opportunity was taken to resurvey affected residents to assess their preparedness, in late December 2013.