Urban–wildland fires: how California and other regions of the US can learn from Australia

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Risk Management
TitleUrban–wildland fires: how California and other regions of the US can learn from Australia
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsStephens, SL, Adams, MA, Handmer, J, Kearns, FR, Leicester, R, Leonard, JE, Moritz, MA
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Date Published01/2009
AbstractMost urban–wildland interface (UWI) fires in California and the other regions of the US are managed in a similar fashion: fire agencies anticipate the spread of fire, mandatory evacuations are ordered, and professional fire services move in and attempt to suppress the fires. This approach has not reduced building losses in California. Conversely, losses and the associated suite of environmental impacts, including reduced air quality, have dramatically increased over the last three decades. In contrast to California, Australia has developed a more effective 'Prepare, stay and defend, or leave early' policy. Using this approach, trained residents decide whether they will stay and actively defend their well-prepared property or leave early before a fire threatens them. Australian strategies have the distinct advantage of engaging and preparing those most affected by such fires: homeowners. Investing more in fire suppression alone, the common response after large UWI fires in California, will not reduce losses. US society has attempted to accommodate many of the natural hazards inherent to the landscapes that we inhabit; by examining the Australian model, we may approach a more sustainable coexistence with fire as well. However, it should be noted that some California communities are so vulnerable that a 'Prepare and leave early' strategy may be the only option.
Short TitleEnviron. Res. Lett.
Refereed DesignationRefereed