A 'responsibility for place' - firefighter deployment, local knowledge and risk

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Fire Behaviour
Fire Management
Risk Management
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TitleA 'responsibility for place' - firefighter deployment, local knowledge and risk
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsKruger, T, Beilin, R
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
AbstractThis research considers ideas about local knowledge and place for firefighters during a bushfire. In 2012, we interviewed 68 Australian bushfire firefighters from selected agencies and volunteer brigades in diverse localities. The findings from the interviews indicate local knowledge can help firefighters to navigate tracks and understand fire behaviour in familiar landscapes. At the same time, they can experience a heightened awareness of the fire on local people and valued assets. This sets up a ‘responsibility for place’, which can both mediate actions during the fire and increase risk to the firefighters involved. A distant fire can present many unknowns and potential hazards for deployed firefighters because they do not have local knowledge. This disconnect can mean they are more cautious in negotiating unfamiliar surrounds and awaiting orders. We find that although local knowledge can assist firefighters, it highlights the complexity of decision-making during a fire that can make it more hazardous for local firefighters. This research contributes to firefighter training by exploring how local knowledge associated with landscape and community can dominate decisionmaking in practice.