The Wildfire Research Group (WiRe)
Wildfires are a big problem that cost billions of dollars to fight annually, yet the fires still devestate ecosystems, human lives, and communities. Living with wildfire is a social issue requiring a social solution and the Wildfire Research Group (WiRe) provides a unique research and practice approach using community-specific data to tailor programs to support local communities who are regularly challenged with wildfires. The WiRe group includes researchers and practitioners from the West Regional Wildfire Council, FireWise of Southwest Colorado, Southwest District Fire Management Program, the Institute of Behavioral Science within the graduate school at Colorado State University, and the Rocky Mountain Research Station of the U.S. Forest Service.
WiRe has a unique approach to gathering information and presenting their findings. The community is evaluated based on data collected through rapid wildfire assessment which examines properties for building materials, vegetation, geography, and access for the fire department. Combined with this evaluation is information gathered from social surveys completed by residents of the assessed properties. These surveys determine attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors in response to mitigating fire risk. A common platform for discussion of recommended programs is established by including the community in the information gathering process. Experience shows that programs are more likely to be successfully implemented if the community is involved with the evaluation and discussion of proposed programs.
WiRe has available several research publications supporting a social approach to solving wildfire risk challenges, and is creating a library of presentation and outreach materials to take to communities struggling to mitigate wildifre risk. Additionally, the group maintains a blog to share experiences and cases relating to wildfire risk mitigation.