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Community wildfire preparedness: balancing community safety and ecosystem sustainability in Southern California chaparral

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Title: Community wildfire preparedness: balancing community safety and ecosystem sustainability in Southern California chaparral
Author: Mayberry, Jennifer A.
Abstract: San Diego County, CA has had an increasing number of wildfires in the wildland urban interface, resulting in loss of lives, property and habitat for sensitive and endemic species (San Diego 2008). As San Diego’s population continues to grow and expand into the wildland urban interface, not only are more households in danger of experiencing the effects of wildfire but already scarce natural resources and habitats are further compromised from development. Due to increasing populations and development pressures on the environment and the cost of fire management, it has become imperative that residents be an integral part of wildfire preparedness and conservation efforts in their surrounding environment (USDA and USDI 2001). Collaborative processes and public education are key factors in bridging the biophysical and social landscapes of a community (Walker et al 2002). This thesis explores the role that education and community fire safe councils play in creating a community ready for wildfire through the perceptions of local fire experts, agency staff, and community fire safe council representatives. Key informant interviews of federal, state, and county agents and community organization leaders revealed that community fire safe councils are vital facilitators in bringing together all stakeholders in community wildfire preparedness. Further, federal, state and county agents rely on community fire safe councils to be their intermediaries in public outreach and education, facilitating community-wide fuel management programs, and at times in enforcing defensible space practices. However, contrary to agency stakeholders’ dependence on community fire safe councils, there are still many barriers that fire safe councils face with regard to being equal collaborative partners with agencies and land managers. Despite praise given to the councils, a content analysis of agency public education brochures indicated that they rarely mention partnership with councils. Analysis revealed that brochures rarely mentioned impacts of poorly executed vegetation management practices. Further, there was very little dialogue addressing habitat restoration and the possibility of combining efforts of defensible space landscape and restoration. In brief agencies’ overall public outreach did not reflect their supposed support of fire safe councils or promote environmentally protective fuels reduction opportunities. This study argues that greater public support and legitimization of fire safe councils by federal, state, and county agents can bring together ecosystem resilience and wildfire preparedness.
Description: Thesis (M.A.)--Humboldt State University, Social Science: Environment and Community, 2011
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2148/721
Date: 2011-03

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  • Masters Theses [874]
    A collection of selected Masters Theses in electronic format.

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