Wildfire at the wildland/urban interface


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Wildfire at the wildland/urban interface a survey of meso level decision makers and their support of wildfire hazard mitigation measures
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vii, 268 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Cook, Steve
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Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1995.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 255-267).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Steve Cook.
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University of Florida
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Full Text







This dissertation is dedicated to my dad who instilled in
me the belief that my success is in my own hands and that no
one is better than I am--just different. Following these two
basic tenets, I have achieved more than my origins would have


I would have never made it without the positive feedback

from students over the past four years as I struggled to

complete this document while simultaneously teaching. I must

also thank my advisor, Cesar Caviedes for support above and

beyond what any student has a right to expect. And of course

my wife, Terri Cook who has tolerated it all.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS....................................... iii

ABSTRACT....................... .......................... vi


1 INTRODUCTION...... ........................... 1

Wildfire as a Natural Hazard.................. 1
Impact of Wildfires on Human Settlement
Patterns..................................... 4
The Current State of the Art................... 10
Materials and Methods ........................ 13
Who Said What....... ......................... 15
Rummaging in the Garbage Can.................. 16
What Does it all Mean? ........................ 16
Endnotes....................................... 17

2 LITERATURE REVIEW .......... ............. ..... 18

Environmental Hazards........................ 18
Wildfire at the Wildland/Urban Interface...... 27
Current Situation.............................. 34
Endnotes........................................ 45

3 MATERIALS AND METHODS ......................... 47

Overview of Research........................... 47
Specific Objectives............................ 59

GOVERNMENT............................... 64

Are They Unique Individuals? .................. 64
Testing for Commonility Between Federal,
State, and County Officials................. 86
Searching for Individual Differences........... 89
They are Different--But Not Always as Assumed. 95
Can They Ever Get Along? .................... 98


Why Some Counties Adopt Plans and Others Don't 100
Is There a Problem? ........................... 101
Whose Problem Is It Anyway?.................... 103
Some See Bigger Problems than Others........... 108
Are There Solutions?.......................... 111
Solution Recognition Varies..................... 124
Are There People Available to Address the
Issue?....................................... 125
Was There a Decision Opportunity.............. 129
Everyone Had the Same Decision Opportunity.... 131
The "Garbage Can Model" and its Application
to This Study. .................. .............. 132

6 FINAL CONCLUSIONS ............................ 134

Federal and State versus County Decision
Makers....................................... 134
Decision Makers in Counties with Plans versus
Those from Counties Without Plans........... 139
A Final Note ................... ............... 141


1 SURVEY QUESTIONNAIRE.......................... 143

ANALYSIS............................. .... 165


REFERENCES......................................... 255

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ 268

Abstract of Dissertation Presentet to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Steve Cook

May 1995

Chairman: C6sar Caviedes
Major Department: Geography

The natural hazard of wildfire at the wildland/urban

interface is investigated in this dissertation. This research

proposes that lack of action on this hazard is due to poor

coordination and understanding among the three levels of

government officials--federal, state and county, who adminis-

ter the areas involved. To investigate this issue 369

individuals in 37 counties in 12 states were questioned at

length on all aspects of the problem. Of particular interest

was a comparison of answers from the three levels of adminis-

tration. It was established that federal and state officials

tend to be similar in background, hold similar beliefs, and

exhibit similar behavior. County officials are more uniform

than either of their peer groups in the same categories.

However, the individuals working at the county level are very

different from individuals at the other two levels of govern-


To investigate why counties with similar wildfire histo-

ries differ in their responses to the problem, the Kingdon

"Garbage Can" model of decision making was applied to respons-

es from individuals from the involved counties. It was found

that the model performed exceedingly well, demonstrating that

officials in counties that have not developed wildfire hazard

mitigation plans are less likely to recognize a problem; less

likely to recognize solutions; and less likely to have people

available to work on the issue than officials from counties

that have developed wildfire hazard mitigation plans. Also it

was found that a "decision opportunity" (defined as having a

wildfire(s) that caused problems in the county within the last

ten years) had occurred equally for counties with and without

plans in place.



Wildfire as a Natural Hazard

Any list of natural hazards is going to be subjective,

according to the author's experience, biases, and research

goals. I have yet to see a compilation of natural hazards

that includes wildfire. What are natural hazards? Addressing

this question, Palm (1990, p. 3) states:

Natural hazards are those [hazards] triggered
by climatic and geological variability, which is at
least partly beyond the control of human activity.

and then she adds:

[This] small set of natural hazards is related to
the atmosphere, the surface of the earth, and water
including severe winter, storms, tornadoes, hurri-
canes, and other atmospheric hazards, earthquakes,
volcanic activity, expansive soils, landslides and
mass movements, subsidence, coastal processes,
drought, groundwater contamination or depletion and

finally she concludes:

We may consider the environment as hazardous only
when some aspect of the environment threatens the
well-being of individuals or society. It is only
when the inter-action of the environment with human
activity threatens to cause loss of life or proper-
ty, or disruptions of individual or community
routines or organizational structure that we see
the environment as hazardous.


Palm then proceeds to write an entire book on natural

hazards, carefully categorizing many hazards and explaining

each, mentioning wildfire only in an off-hand manner.

Reviewing this book' it is clearly evident that wildfire,

whether natural wildfire occurring in wildland settings or

wildfire that involves human-built structures has not been

considered as a natural hazard.

Does wildfire fit Palm's criteria? Is wildfire a

"Natural hazard triggered by climatic and geological

variability ?" Wildfires have a climatic trigger as

they occur generally under drought conditions and are fre-

quently sparked directly by lightening. Is wildfire "at least

partly beyond the control of human activity?" The best

efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest

Service; The United States Department of the Interior, Bureau

of Land Management; and many state forestry agencies over the

last eighty years have been unable to control wildfires, or to

reduce the acreage burned. Fires have been reduced in number,

but those that have burned have been larger. Yes, wildfires

are "beyond the control of human activity."

Certainly, according to Palm's first definition, wildfire

should be included. Likewise, it is not necessary to stretch

either of her other definitions to include wildfire. Why then

has wildfire not been included in natural hazard studies done

by geographers? Perhaps because wildfire has been studied by

investigators within forestry and natural resource


departments. They have been typically considered from a

practical rather than a theoretical perspective. The majority

of the writing on wildfires has been couched within forestry

management terms. Funds have also been very limited for

research and counter-measures when this natural hazard is

compared to earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods.

Like earthquakes along known faults, the probability of

a wildfire occurring increases with the passage of time.

However, unlike earthquakes, it is possible for a trained

observer to visually identify the potential wildfire hazard of

an area and pass that knowledge to homeowners in the involved

area. Like floods, wildfires are associated with climatic

conditions, but wildfire's impact can be more easily reduced

by land management practices. There are other comparisons and

contrasts that can be made between wildfire and other natural

hazards, but the point is that wildfire is a natural hazard

that can perhaps be mitigated more easily than some of the

"traditional" natural hazards, while still allowing human

activity in the hazard zone. By using mitigative measures

when designing and constructing subdivisions along with

careful homesite selection, design, and construction tech-

niques, and coupling these with an awareness of the hazard by

the property owner, the hazard can be reduced significantly.

This research investigates the people involved in the imple-

mentation or non-implementation of wildfire mitigation


measures in counties across the United States where serious

wildfire threats exist in the wildland/urban interface.

Impact of Wildfires on Human Settlement Patterns

By the criteria used in this research, the wildland/urban

interface will be defined as an area which still retains most

of its natural character, including vegetation, but which also

contains human-built structures. The key to this issue is

that the area still retains most of its natural character.

As with many aspects of the natural hazard of wildfire at

the wildland/urban interface, there is not even agreement

among professionals what the area involved should be called.

Some avoid using "interface," suggesting that "wildland/urban

intermix" is more appropriate since there is seldom a distinct

interface. They say that the boundary between wildland and

non-wildland is fuzzy.2 It is also true that the character of

the human-built structures varies widely from a travel trailer

parked in the brush to be used only during the fall as a

hunting base, to full-blown subdivisions and ski resorts.

The humans involved vary just as widely, from rural folks

who grew up in the woods and are cognizant of the danger posed

by wildfire and who reduce it's potential simply as part of

life, to subdivision dwellers who have moved from the city,

sometimes from a different state and/or climatic zone, and


have no knowledge of the wildfire susceptibility of the

natural vegetation that surrounds their new home in the woods.

For the purpose of this research, the criteria used to

identify areas with a high wildfire potential were left up to

the professional judgements of the land managers in the states

considered in the study. Some surveyed counties have a high

number of individual rural homes while in others there are

cities expanding into areas with high wildfire potential. The

commonality of all of them is the wildfire potential, not the

structure type or resident's demographics.

Wildland/Urban Interface Fires

Over the past eighty years, the number of wildfire in the

United States has been reduced to the extent that technology

and funding have allowed. During the same time, the number of

structures that have been built in, and adjacent to, wildland

areas that have historically been subject to wildfire has

increased dramatically, resulting in even more aggressive fire

suppression activities. The result is a buildup of forest

floor fuels and altered species composition creating an

ecological situation conducive to severe conflagrations.

The list of counties across the country that have

experienced destructive fires in the wildland/urban interface

in the past few years is lengthy (Table 1-1). Moreover, the

number of homes destroyed and acres of wildland burned

increases every year.

Table 1-1
Damaging Recent WUI Wildfires
Location Damage Year

FL-Flagler County 99 homes 1985
Oregon (several) 22 homes
2 lives 1987
CO-Boulder County 44 homes 1989
MI-Crawford County 86 homes 1990
CA-Santa Barbara County 450 homes 1990
WA-Okanogan County 1990
WA-Spokane County 1990
TX-Shackleford County 1988
OR-Deschutes County 1989
UT-Wasatch County 1988
CA-Oakland 1991

Home Construction and Forest Fuels are Increasing Together

The problem has worsened even as efforts to reduce the

hazard have increased. Many symposia and conferences centered

on this problem have been held3 and dozens of publications

addressing inter-agency cooperation, fire fighter training,

subdivision design, and techniques property owners can use to

reduce the hazard near structures have been produced and

disseminated. Yet in many high-risk wildland/urban counties,

the hazard has not been addressed at all. There are several

possible reasons to explain the evident lack of administrative


1. the techniques proposed to address the problem
are not appropriate;

2. involved agencies are failing to cooperate
among themselves;

3. decisions are being made without involving the
entire spectrum of affected individuals, busi-
nesses and agencies;

4. the problem is not considered a high priority
by individuals and government entities with
other pressing concerns;

5. money availability.

However, there are some counties with high wildfire

hazard potential where wildfire mitigation measures are in

place and appear to be functioning, thus reducing the incom-

patibility of structures and wildfire-adapted ecosystems. In

these counties there seems to have been a convergence of

opinions that wildfire at the wildland/urban interface is a

problem that needed to be addressed. If factors that facili-

tate the adoption of mitigation measures can be identified,

perhaps obstacles to their adoption in high-hazard counties

without mitigation measures could be removed.

Why Investigate Meso Level Decision Makers Anyway?

After Sorensen (1983) succinctly summarized the inconclu-

siveness of past perception research, one is inclined to agree

with him that further research into individual perceptions of

natural hazards is likely to produce more conflicting results.

It has become evident after much research into individual

perception of natural hazards, that individuals may not

recognize a hazard; may not believe that the hazard is present

at all; and even if they do recognize it, they may not find it

to be an important enough factor in their lives to address it.

But perhaps the most important finding of hazards research

(although inadvertent) is that the actual response of an

individual to a hazardous event may bear little resemblance to

what that individual had indicated his response would be.

Initiation of wildfire mitigation measures does not lie at

this micro (individual) level. At the broader macro level,

federal and state governments have tried various approaches to

deal with the problem, but with limited success. Increased

adoption of wildfire hazard mitigation measures does not seem

to rest with the macro level either. This restricts the

question to the decision makers at the meso level (community

or county). The weak existing link between macro level

programs and micro level recognition of wildfire hazard may,

then, be attributable to these meso level people. No research

has investigated who they are and why they act as they do.

Yet their involvement is crucial in channeling macro level

programs to micro level consumers.

Identification of Official Decision Makers

Investigations have shown that there is considerable

interaction between federal, state and county decision makers

on land management issues, due to the fact that many wildfire

prone counties include large acreage of federal and/or state

land within their boundaries, often in highly fragmented

parcels. Public land fire management can not be separated

from adjoining private land. Thus any research into meso


level decision makers must include the federal and state

managers of this public land.

Within any county or fire district exists a complex mix

of property ownerships, including private as well as public

land. This public land is not an amorphous entity, but is

divided into many individual parcels, managed variously by one

of several federal, state or local entities having very

divergent management goals and objectives.

Even if (and this is a big "if") all public land managers

agree upon mitigation strategies, seldom do private property

owners adopt mitigation measures without being assisted,

encouraged or forced by government agencies (Abt et al. 1990;

Adams 1990). If all landowners, both public and private are

not involved in the development and execution of these strate-

gies, the effectiveness will be greatly reduced. The focus of

this research therefore is on federal, state, and county

decision makers with local knowledge of the hazard, or those

people with authority to act upon staff recommendations.

Goals of this Research

The first goal of this research was to identify the

differences between officials working at different levels of

government. It was hypothesized that federal officials would

be more uniform in their beliefs, perceptions, and knowledge

of wildfire than their state counterparts who in turn would be

more uniform on the above criteria than county officials.

Furthermore it was hypothesized that federal and state


officials would be more similar than their county peers on

similar questions of land management as it related to wild-

fire. Thirdly, it was hypothesized that federal officials

would be more narrowly defined demographically than their

state peers who in turn would be more narrowly defined than

county officials. If these three hypothesis are true, it will

be easier to understand the differences between the relative

positions taken by the three levels of officials when the

issue of wildfire arises.

An additional goal of this research was to test the

Kingdon (1984) decision making model. In brief, the model

states that for a governmental decision to be made four

streams of input must come together in a "garbage can." They

include identified problems; solutions to these problems;

people available to address the problems; and finally a

decision opportunity. The hypothesis was that counties that

have developed Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Programs (WHMPs)

would have fulfilled these four criteria, while similar

counties with similar fire hazards but without WHMPs would not

have the four streams "flowing."

The Current State of the Art

Chapter 2 outlines the evolution of research beginning

with Gilbert White, the initiator of natural hazards research,

through technological hazards and risk. Governmental policy

making in general was investigated, with special emphasis on


the "Garbage Can Model" of decision making. Finally an

extensive review of the hazard of wildfire at the wildland/

urban interface, spatially and temporally is included.

Historical Review

For many years, natural hazards research in geography

centered upon individual perception of and response to a

hazard. But after many years and innumerable research

projects this line of investigation died out, because it

obviously was leading nowhere. Individuals have difficulty

explaining how they would respond to a hazard, but they feel

compelled to provide an answer when asked for a response to a

hypothetical situation. Since these hypothetical responses

were simply guesses, they had little relationship to the

individuals response to an actual natural hazard event.

More recently technological hazards have been a more

popular research arena. Individual perceptions were just as

hard to nail down in this arena as was the case with natural


The study of technological hazards evolved into issues of

risk, in the context of technological hazards. Risk litera-

ture is rife with statements about "subjective analysis" of

individuals. A new group of researchers, funded by government

and industry, took the approach that things would be OK if

citizens would just listen to scientific logic. This approach

tended to polarize the issue of technological hazards even



Governmental decision making, especially viewed through

the eyepiece of Kingdon's (1984) "Garbage Can Model" is

reviewed extensively. Kingdon took a rather fuzzy theoretical

idea and applied it qualitatively to decision making within

the federal government. He maintained that for a decision to

be made, four streams have to flow together. Alesch and Petak

(1988) applied this model to the cities of Long Beach and Los

Angeles in reference to earthquake hazards.

Most closely related to this study is research conducted

by Mittler (1988) who reviewed decision making related to

hurricane mitigation measures along the Atlantic and Gulf


Wildfire at the Wildland/Urban Interface as a Hazard

Wildfire has been a part of the natural systems of North

America at least since the last ice age. However, it only

became a serious hazard for modern man recently as population

pressures pushed people into fire-prone areas.

In the United States, all levels of government have been

involved, however not consistently, with some public land

managers aggressively pursuing the problem and others essen-

tially ignoring it entirely.

Currently, there is much talk, and some action, although

the impetus for action in some areas and not in others is not

always obvious. This realm might be fertile ground for

research into "gatekeepers," as often it appears that a single

individual may be the impetus. But there is a trend toward


more and more cooperation among various entities, and more

communication at all levels.

What may be bringing these disparate groups together in

an attempt to deal with the hazard is the extreme cost in both

manpower and resources. Nobody has the money to continue the

status quo. As with many other problems that are addressed by

government entities, there is nothing quite as urgent as

economic necessity.

Materials and Methods

Chapter 3 dwells at length upon the hypotheses and

assumptions of this research and the objectives used to test

these hypotheses and assumptions. The following is a brief

overview only; for in-depth coverage of objectives and

assumptions see Chapter 3.

This research addressed two questions:

1. What are "the motivations, perceptions and
values within and between [government offi-
cials at the federal, state and county levels]
involved in the wildland/urban interface" and
"how [do] these people influence the adoption
of fire-safe ideas and practices?" (from Davis
1990) and,

2. Will the "garbage can model" enunciated by
Cohen et al. (1972), as adapted by Kingdon
(1984), and used quantitatively by Alesch and
Petak (1988) and Mittler (1988) work in a
narrowly defined study such as this one?

The procedures developed by Rossi et al. (1982) were

followed. The focus, however, has been narrowed to the single

issue of wildfire at the wildland/urban interface. There has

been no comprehensive data collection on the individuals

involved with this issue at the "meso level." Furthermore,

responses of elected officials in the counties involved were

analyzed, in a manner similar to that of Mittler's study of

state elected officials, in an attempt to provide a basis for

prediction of where wildfire hazard mitigation measures are

likely to be adopted and where that adoption is unlikely.

Testing Hypothesis and Assumptions

Objective 1. To search for consistency of responses
among federal, state, and county officials.

The assumption is that federal decision makers will
exhibit uniformity in their responses with state offi-
cials having less uniformity and county respondents
mustering the least.

Objective 2. To identify whether federal and state
officials respond similarly to each other but differently
than county officials.

It is assumed that federal and state responses will be
more closely associated than either federal and county or
state and county.

Objective 3. To investigate the depth and breadth of
individual federal, state and county decision makers
involvement in and attitude toward adoption of wildfire
hazard mitigation measures.

The assumption is that individual federal decision makers
have more extensive experience, are the most knowledge-
able, and have the greatest interest in the adoption of
mitigation measures, with less knowledge and interest
among state decision makers, and, even less at the county

Objective 4. To test the Kingdon model utilizing
government decision makers attitudes and actions toward
wildfire at the wildland/urban interface.

The assumption is that the Kingdon "Garbage Can" model of
decision making will explain why some counties in the


study have adopted wildfire hazard mitigation measures
while others with similar hazards have not.

Research Instrument

The means of gathering information for analysis to prove

the hypotheses was a mail survey questionnaire. Information

was solicited from 543 individuals, including 339 county, 58

state, and 138 federal officials. Of this total, 369 (68%)

were returned completed: 202 county (59.6%), 50 state

(86.2%), and 117 federal (84.8%).

The survey questionnaire sought demographic information

and also included questions probing the respondents knowledge

of wildfire history in their jurisdiction, their understanding

of the hazard, and how important they feel the hazard is when

compared to other hazards. There are questions that ask them

to speculate upon the future importance of the hazard in

relation to other hazards. Their knowledge of past governmen-

tal action relating to the hazard, as well as their attitude

toward potential courses of action to deal with the issue in

the future was probed. Personal experience with the hazard

was sought out, as well as personal training and education

relating to the hazard.

Who Said What

Chapter 4 sorts out the questions in light of the first

three objectives. Questions were analyzed individually and


then were aggregated in several ways to address the four


Rummaging in the Garbage Can

Chapter 5 is a thorough look at the questions that are

appropriate for testing the various streams identified by

Kingdon. The streams are isolated in light of the specific

hazard of wildfire. There are several questions that directly

shed light upon whether the requirements for each stream have

been met in counties with active wildfire hazard mitigation

plans and not met in counties with similar fire hazards but

without a plan in place. The results are enlightening.

What Does it all Mean?

Finally, Chapter 6 ties it back together. How successful

has this research been in identifying differences between the

three groups? Are county respondents really less cohesive in

their responses? Are they really different from their federal

and state counterparts? Are they less educated, less knowl-

edgeable, and show less concern for the hazard?

And what about Kingdon and his "Garbage Can" theory of

decision making? Is this a reasonable model to use to define

whether a county has a functioning wildfire hazard mitigation



1. I do not wish to appear overly critical of Palm's book
here, I am using her book as an example simply because it is
the most recent book on natural hazards. She has generally
included the same presentation of natural hazards as her
predecessors, all of whom have ignored wildfire as a natural
hazard. However, I do feel that Palm could have been more
cognizant of increase in negative wildfire/human interactions
during the last decade. In the 1950's and 1960's when much
was written about natural hazards, wildfire at the wildland-
/urban interface was not an issue.

2. Even though I have chosen to use a more complex definition
of what constitutes the Wildland/Urban interface, I have
considerable affinity for the simplicity of the definition
used by Dan Bailey, a Fire Management Officer for the United
States Forest Service in Missoula, Montana. Mr. Bailey
suggests simply that the Wildland/ Urban interface is any
place that flammable vegetation meets human structures. This
definition allows the inclusion of the incredibly flammable
juniperus (sp) that many suburban homeowners plant around
their homes.

3. See especially Fischer and Arno, eds., Protecting People
and Homes from Wildfire in the Interior West, but also see,
California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection, et al.,
Fire Safe California Workshops; Texas Forest Service,
Wildfire Strikes Home in Texas; USDA Forest Service, Proceed-
ings. International Wildland Fire Conference; Florida
Division of Forestry, Wildland/Urban Fire Protection Initia-
tive; Washington State Department of Natural Resources,
Statewide Wildfire Conference; Louisiana Department of
Agriculture and Forestry, Wildfire Strikes Home in Louisiana.
There have been many others at the state and local level, but
except for Fischer and Arno, they have involved fire managers
and emergency services personnel to the exclusion of county
policy makers, homeowners, insurance companies, subdivision
developers, and commercial property owners.


Environmental Hazards

Natural Hazards

Natural hazards, as a legitimate field of study, was

initiated by Gilbert White (1945). His studies of flooding

and the perceptions of individuals of the floods, predominant-

ly in the midwest (White 1961; 1964; 1958) were the first

attempts to reconcile the problem of natural hazard increase

due to human occupance of hazard zones. Later White and his

disciples, Kates and Burton began what was to become an

extended period of study of hazard perception (White 1974,

1984; Kates 1962; Burton and Kates 1974; Burton, Kates and

White 1978). This research provided little information helpful

toward the reduction of natural hazards as the results were

ambiguous and not reproducible (Watts in Hewett 1983; Bertness

1986). In their latest work on the subject, Kates and Burton

(1986) merely reviewed (and embellished) past research and

accomplishments of White and his followers.

Presently natural hazards are commonly studied as

"natural disasters"' by sociologists (Drabek 1986; Quarantelli

1987). There is also much ongoing research on the actual

physical processes of natural hazards (Earthquake Engineering



Research Institute 1986). However, some sociologists, most

notably Godschalk (1985a, 1985b; Godschalk et al. 1989) with

his work on coastal zone management, have begun including

mitigation strategies in their work.

Some of the current issues dealt with by the contemporary

hazards research establishment include, technological hazards,

risk and governmental policy making.

Technological Hazards

The majority of research money has been channeled away

from natural hazards and natural disasters2 into the field of

technological hazards, with the more socially conscious

researchers studying the negative impacts of technological

hazardous events upon society. Research into the social

impacts of technological hazards at Three Mile Island (Bart-

lett et al. 1983), Love Canal (Fowlkes and Miller 1988),

Chernobyl (Hohenemser and Renn 1988) and Bhopal (Shrivastava

1987) have appeared, generally supporting the lay person's

concern of technological hazards.


To counter what is considered "irrational" behavior and

fear of technological hazards, government and industry funded

studies of risk, and risk behavior treatises began appearing.

It is very interesting that these risk analysis researchers

apparently had never bothered to review the work that had been

done by White, Kates and Burton much earlier, attempting to


explain human perceptions and relate that to human behavior

connected to natural hazards. The risk analysis literature

has many references to "subjective analysis" which is the

irrational view of the layman of technological hazards

compared to the "objective analysis" presented by the "profes-

sionals" and "scientists." Wildavsky (1988) is one of the

more aggressive proponents of this logic, stating rather

bluntly that technology has brought western societies the good

life, and people should quit complaining about the tiny

possibility of a hazardous event resulting from technological

mishaps. Audet (1988) explains how insurance companies are

essentially directing private industrial policy by selecting

insurance risks that have "predictability" (p. 275).

Meanwhile other researchers were bypassing the objective

reality v. subjective reality debate and were looking at what

the roots of the differences were. Slovic et al. (1980)

produced some of the best work, viewing the subject from the

layman's as well as the professional's perspective. Diggs

(1988) in a broad review of articles on the subject concluded

(p. vii):

At least four broad themes emerge from this col-
lection of studies. Risk communicators must learn
to 1) target, 2) research, 3) interact, and 4)
specify. Not only should at-risk groups be target-
ed, but communication channels, education materi-
als, timing, legislators, and other elements that
can directly or indirectly influence the effective-
ness of information flow and acceptance must also
be identified. Risk communication should also be a
reciprocal process of interaction between informa-
tion disseminators, decision makers, and local
people. Interaction often results in higher manag-

er credibility, increased hazard salience, two way
learning, and frequent revision of plans. Finally
it is important to specify the program goals,
rationale, physical features, and desired actions.
Ambiguity results in exaggeration and/or inappro-
priate and unpredictable behavior .

Governmental Policy Making

Much earlier, Eulau (1969) had cautioned "Science, then,

is anything but 'value free'" (p. xii) in a fascinating study

of what motivates local governments to respond to public


What clearly emerges in a review of the studies is that

there are essentially three groups of actors in any discussion

of natural hazards. First, there are lay people, who may be

extremely diverse demographically and politically, but who

generally see risks and hazards as they bear upon themselves

as individuals and upon the individuals around them. Second-

ly, there are the "experts" who generally represent the

government and/or industry and who have as their agenda

convincing the lay people that they (the experts) understand

the risks and hazards better than anyone. Thirdly, there are

the politicians, usually local, who see almost everything in

terms of "how much does it cost" and usually respond to "a

few, but intensely felt problems" (Eulau 1969, p. 287).

Eulau's assessment of how the process works applies to many

facets in the development of public policy, but seem particu-

larly pertinent to understanding how local governments respond

to "environmental challenges."

The Garbage Can Model

It seems almost as if the funky title was attached to

this decidedly non-funky model simply to attract attention to

it. It is exciting and stimulating to see the model progress

from a rather fuzzy theoretical construct through three

independent research applications that are each a little more

practical and narrowly defined than the one before. The model

is attractive for its simplicity and ease of application. It

is also a pleasure to locate a model that is clearly defined

and does not require a hundred little boxes interconnected in

a multiplicity of directions. This model is for practical

people conducting practical research.

The model begins with a "garbage can" which represents an

issue that may or may not ever be addressed by the officials

involved. Each issue has its own can. Different aspects of

any particular issue may be tossed into the appropriate

garbage can at any time. The model as refined by Alesch and

Petak (1986) holds that officials will not address an issue

unless four separate, complete streams of "garbage" flow into

the can. These streams, include in no particular order, a

problem, a solution, people to work on the problem, and some

impetus to bring the issue to the forefront.

Refinement of the Garbage Can Model by Past Researchers

The term "Garbage Can Model" was coined by Cohen, March

and Olsen (1972) in their study of how decisions were made in

a university administration. Kingdon (1984 p.90-91) quotes

Cohen, et al.

"As a choice opportunity (e.g., the selection of a
dean) floats by in the organization (e.g., a uni-
versity) various participants, each with their own
resources, become involved. Various problems
(e.g., maintaining scholarly quality, curriculum
improvement, affirmative action) are introduced
into the choice, and various solutions (e.g.,
inside candidates for a deanship, outside candi-
dates, expanding the unit, abolishing the unit) may
be considered. A choice opportunity thus is "a
garbage can into which various kinds of problems
and solutions are dumped by participants as they
are generated. The mix of garbage in a single can
depends on the mix of cans available, on the labels
attached to the alternative cans, on what garbage
is currently being produced and on the speed with
which garbage is collected and removed from the

Kingdon then goes on to explain his own interpretation of

this model (page 93)

The outcomes, then, are a function of the mix of
garbage (problems, solutions, participants, and the
participants' resources) in the can and how it is
processed. Who is invited to or shows up for a
meeting (i.e., who the participants are) affects
the outcome dramatically. Which solutions are
ready for airing and which problems are on people's
minds are critical, the various streams are cou-
pled in these choice contexts. When a given solu-
tion is proposed, it may be regarded by the partic-
ipants as irrelevant to the problem and is thus
discarded. Or even more likely, the participants
have fixed on a course of action and cast about for
a problem to which it is the solution, discarding
problems that don't seem to fit. The solutions and
problems that come to the fore might change from
one meeting to the next, as given participants
attend or fail to attend.

Sometimes, problems are actually resolved. At lest
as often, problems drift away from the choice at
hand to another garbage can, not being resolved in
the current round at least. Or important problems
are ignored altogether, possibly because there is
no available solution for them. At any rate, the

logical structure of such a model is (1) the flow
of fairly separate streams through the system, and
(2) outcomes heavily dependent on the coupling of
the streams--couplings of solutions to problems;
interactions among participants; the fortuitous or
purposeful absence of solutions, problems, or
participants--in the choices (the garbage cans)
that must be made.

People do not set about to solve problems here .
Rather, solutions and problems have equal status
as separate streams in the system, and the popular-
ity of a given solution at a given point in time
often affects the problems that come up for consid-

Kingdon elaborates upon his "Revised Model" of the

Garbage Can Theory of Cohen et al. by stating that for a

decision to be made in the federal government three "major

process streams" must "couple." There must be an initial

problem recognition, then the formation and refining of policy

proposals, and finally politics. "So we need to understand

[first] how and why one set of problems rather than another

comes to occupy officials' attention" (page 92). Policy

proposals are formulated and refined by "a policy community of

specialists--bureaucrats, people in the planning and evalua-

tion, academics, interest groups, researchers--which

concentrates on generating proposals" (page 92). Finally,

"the political stream is composed of things like swings of

national mood, vagaries of public opinion, election results,

changes of administration, shifts in partisan or ideological

distributions in [government] and interest group pressure

campaigns" (page 93).

Kingdon maintains that

These three streams of processes develop and oper-
ate largely independently of one another. Solu-
tions are developed whether or not they respond to
a problem. The political stream may change sudden-
ly whether or not the policy community is ready or
the problems facing the country have changed. The
economy may go sour, affecting the budget con-
straint, which imposes a burden on both politicians
and policy specialists that was not of their own
making. The streams are not absolutely indepen-
dent, however. The criteria for selecting ideas in
the policy stream might be affected by the public's
perception of the problems facing the country,
connecting (to a degree) the political and problems
streams. Despite these hints of connection, the
streams still are largely separate from one anoth-
er, largely governed by different forces, different
considerations, and different styles.

Once we understand these streams taken separately,
the key to understanding agenda and policy change
is their coupling, the separate streams come
together at critical times. A problem is recog-
nized, a solution is available, the political
climate makes the time right for change, and the
constraints do not prohibit action. Advocates
develop their proposals and then wait for problems
to come along to which they can attach their solu-
tions, or for a development in the political stream
like a change of administration that makes their
proposals more likely to be adopted...I label an
opportunity for pushing one's proposals a 'policy
window'--open for a short time, when the conditions
to push a given subject higher on the policy agenda
are right. But the window is open for only a
while, and then it closes...An item suddenly gets
hot. Something is done about it, or nothing, but
in either case, policy makers soon turn their
attention to something else. So opportunities
pass, and if policy entrepreneurs who were trying
to couple a solution to the hot problem or the
propitious political situation miss the chance,
they must wait for the next opportunity." (page 93-

This final paragraph is the essence of Kingdon's revised

garbage can model. He has taken a rather fuzzy theoretical

model of governmental decision-making as proposed by Cohen et


al. and attached concrete criteria to it, criteria that

empirical researchers can utilize. Kingdon then goes on to

demonstrate the usefulness of his revised model in a qualita-

tive study of governmental decision making. However, there is

still considerable distance between Kindgon's application of

the model in a qualitative manner to governmental decision

making and my empirical testing of the model on decision

making pertaining to wildfire at the wildland/urban interface.

Fortunately, this empirical vacuum has been addressed by two

pioneering studies, that of Alesch and Petak (1986), and

Mittler (1988).

In their excellent book, The Politics and Economics of

Earthquake Hazards, Alesch and Petak compare and contrast the

responses of the city governments of Long Beach and Los

Angeles, California, to the problem of earthquake hazard

mitigation. Through the use of the garbage can model3 they

have compared the two cities.4

The garbage can model holds that decisions are made
only when four independent streams are brought
together by circumstance or by skillful management.
These streams are: (1) problems, (2) solutions, (3)
actors, and (4) decision opportunities. (p. 233-

Mittler took the garbage can model one step farther by

applying it empirically to data gathered by Rossi et al.

(1982), who interviewed a wide variety of people including,

but not limited to, public officials at the community level

concerning the most common natural hazards in the United


States. Mittler took a small subset of the responses of Rossi

et al. and

described] the public policy agenda-setting
process and, using Kingdon's model, explained] why
some Gulf and Atlantic Coast states enacted non-
structural mitigation laws for hurricanes and
resultant floods following Hurricanes Agnes and
Eloise in the 1970's while others with similar risk
levels did not. (p 87)

Mittler's research looked for answers similar to those

the present study is seeking. He searched for an explanation

for differential responses from states with similar hurricane

and coastal flooding hazards while this research sought

reasons for differential responses from counties with similar

wildfire hazards at the wildland/ urban interface. Perhaps

when viewed empirically from within the garbage can model

framework, counterintuitive behavior as defined by Forrester

(1971) may not be counterintuitive at all, but quite logical.

Wildfire at the Wildland/Urban Interface

Fire Ecology

Fire is an integral part of the ecology of the needle

leafed forests of North America. Some trees are adapted to

survive frequent fires but some, like lodgepole pine (Pinus

contorta), require conflagrations that burn large areas of

even-aged stands which are then replaced by new even-aged

stands of the same species (Fowles 965). Many of the shade

intolerant species of pine have thick bark that will withstand

low intensity wildfires and southern pines can even have all


of their needles burned without killing the tree. Others

trees like black spruce (Picea mariana) have serratinous cones

that only open after a fire has heated them (Viereck and

Little 1972). Western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) and

Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) forests of the

arid west burn readily once ignited. The scrub oak communi-

ties of the Great Basin, parts of the Great Plains and the

east slopes of the Rocky Mountains are also swept occasionally

by wildfire. In the California chaparral communities,

wildfire has historically been a major component during the

hot dry summer of this Mediterranean climate. In other parts

of California, exotic eucalyptus trees have spread, causing a

fire hazard with their shedding of oleaginous (i. e. oily)


Historical Background

Wildfire was not a hazard until European settlers began

to settle in these fire-adapted ecosystems. Native Americans

used fire as a hunting aid and generally had settlements that

could be readily moved to escape wildfire. European settle-

ments, on the other hand, were more permanent and susceptible

to destruction by wildfire. In conjunction with that,

Europeans viewed forest trees as a cash resource that could be

lost in wildfires. It was the latter rather than the former

that caused the U.S. Forest Service to establish a policy of

wildfire suppression during the 1920s--a policy that was

followed by other federal and state agencies with management


authority over forested lands. This policy generated little

opposition until very recently.

Now wildfire is once again regarded as beneficial in

natural ecosystems by most forest ecologists, but confounding

this newly regained wisdom is the problem of an increasing

number of homes, businesses, summer cabins, hunting lodges,

etc. being built in fire-prone ecosystems. Owners of these

structures view fire as harmful and are increasingly demanding

protection from wildfire. This is the current situation in

the United States.

International Problem

Wildfire at the wildland/urban interface is not a problem

strictly confined to the United States, with a recent interna-

tional conference being held on the issue (USDA Forest Service

1989). However, there appear to be only two other countries

where the issue is being seriously addressed. Much of Canada

is covered by the Taiga or Boreal Forest which is a highly

fire-prone ecosystem. Summer lightning storms set thousands

of fires annually in this forest which consists mostly of

white and black spruce, with some pine and hardwoods mixed in.

Alberta appears to have taken the lead in mitigation measures

(Wildfire News & Notes Jan/Feb 1990) and in 1991 a conference

was held there including those involved from a wide variety of

jurisdictions (O'Shea 1991). This conference was built upon

earlier work done by the Alberta Forestry Lands and Wildlife;

Forest Service (No Date a, No Date b, No Date c, No Date d).


And interestingly enough, way back in 1977, someone was

working on the problem in the Yukon (Nyland 1977) and stress-

ing mitigation measures.

In Australia there are large areas covered by eucalyptus

trees forming a highly flammable "bush" as it is called

locally. The Australian Mutual Provident Society (1984)

issued a guide called simply "Survival" which covered how to

survive several types of natural hazards, although there is

nothing mentioned about mitigation measures. The Bushfire

Council of New South Wales (No Date a, No Date b, No Date c)

has produced colorful informative brochures for homeowners in

affected areas.

Federal Involvement

It is well known that as one progresses from local to

state to federal agencies, the concern for natural hazards

increases (Rossi et al. 1982; Petak and Atkisson 1982). But

it is equally well known that natural hazards are commonly

dealt with at the local level first (Rossi et al. 1982;

Schneider 1990). The federal government typically takes the

carrot approach in its dealings with states and smaller

jurisdictions. To be eligible for federal disaster relief

funds state and local governments must comply with certain

regulations (FEMA 1990; Schneider 1990). The federal govern-

ment also produces and disseminates informational publications

and videos, and sponsors local, regional, national, and


international conferences. (See Appendix 3 for examples of

wildland/urban interface publications)

State Involvement

Fire is an historic component of many natural ecosystems

all across the United States and when I queried state forestry

agencies asking whether wildfire at the wildland/urban

interface was a problem in their state, I received not a

single negative response back. However, there are some states

that have had serious wildfires at the wildland/urban inter-

face in the last few years and others where there is clearly

a strong potential for such a fire. Activity, as gauged by

publications, tends to be concentrated in the far west,

intermountain west, and southeast states. (For a sampling of

state publications on this issue see Appendix 3) Activities

of different states, fall into four categories:

1. do nothing, because the issue really is not a
problem, even though some people involved in
emergency services express alarm;

2. do what the federal government requires to
qualify the state for federal funding in case
a serious wildfire occurs in the wildland/
urban interface;

3. on state initiative, inform involved property
owners and developers of the hazard, have
conferences, usually with state, federal, and
some local emergency service delivery people,
but the issue still is generally voluntary
(Counties are encouraged to promulgate mitiga-
tion measures but not forced to);

4. promulgate state laws and regulations that
require certain types of development and con-
struction in the hazard zones and prohibit

certain other. These states often have state-
wide planning agencies that are involved,
superseding county authority.

The severity of the hazard does not necessarily indicate

into which category a state will fall. Especially in the

latter two categories, the hazard may remain quite uniform,

but what does vary is the political situation of that particu-

lar state. States with more libertarian attitudes, Utah

(Cornell 1990) and Texas (Terry 1990) for example will be less

likely to pass legislation restricting individual rights than

will California (Corona Fire Department No Date) or Oregon

(Oregon Department of Forestry 1990) which tend to have more

governmental control over people's lives.

County Involvement

Rossi et al. (1982) found that "local elites," which

included county administrators and politicians, had little

knowledge or interest in natural hazards. The one exception

was emergency services people who thought that natural hazards

were more important than anyone else in their survey. This

generality holds true with the issue of wildfire at the

wildland/urban interface. The majority of county level people

involved work in emergency services.

There are some notable exceptions to this, with at least

two conferences held in Arizona aimed at local participants,

one directed toward the Prescott area and one aimed directly

at county officials statewide (Cirincione 1990), but in most


instances, there is little county involvement beyond emergency


A major exception is exemplified by the proceedings of

several California counties including Los Angeles County

(County of Los Angeles 1982) and Santa Barbara County (Santa

Barbara County Fire Department No Date; Perry 1990a; 1990b).

It should also be noted that three central Oregon counties

banded together to produce the original brochure now dissemi-

nated in Washington and Oregon by several agencies (Northwest

Interagency Fire Prevention Group 1988).

Multi-Jurisdictional Groups

Some of the most innovative, and, according to those

involved, most successful operations are multi-county, multi-

agency assemblages. To my knowledge, these only exist in the

Rocky Mountains states and farther west. Some good examples

are from Arizona (Kraske 1988), The Lake Tahoe Basin of Nevada

and California, eastern California and western Nevada (Adams

and Smith 1990; Kraske 1990), and western Montana (Wildfire

News & Notes 1991). (See Appendix 3 for examples of publica-

tions from these agencies) What these and other cooperative

programs have in common is that they are comprised mainly of

fire fighting agencies and include few county planners,

commissioners and others within county government who would be

responsible for the establishment of long range mitigation


Current Situation

Preliminary Attempts to Deal with the Problem

An early attempt to deal with the problem of wildfire at

the wildland/urban interface (Moore 1981), consisted of a long

list of recommendations, covering almost every facet of the

issue. Moore concluded with four "Proposed Standards,"


1. establishing fire hazard severity class

2. zoning ordinances which reflect wildland
fire potential;

3. spacing and building density standards;

4. street construction parameters that would
allow evacuation and access for fire
fighting equipment.

Moore's ideas were embraced by many in the fire fighting

fraternity. However, the social impact of these recommenda-

tions were not carefully addressed. As Gale and Cortner

(1987), pertinently state

These approaches need not, and should not, be
mutually exclusive. The human dimension is intri-
cately interwoven into the definition of the prob-
lem, and strategies for solving interface issues
present numerous opportunities for economists,
sociologists, psychologists, and political scien-
tists to become directly involved in problem solv-
ing. (page 1)

Gardner et al. (1987) have explored the issue of people

moving into wildfire prone areas and established that they

were unaware of wildfire dangers presented by these settings.

Tokle (1988), among others, has argued that public agencies


must provide better information to homeowners concerning

protection of life and property in such hazardous areas.

Information on fire hazard is available from many

sources, but it seems not to be reaching the people who will

benefit the most from it (Gardner et al. 1985). In Florida,

Abt et al. (1990) found that residents in a community hit by

a severe wildfire were very concerned about the hazard and

that they were receptive to more government involvement in the

problem. In a preliminary survey to serve as a basis for the

current research, Cook (1989a) surveyed homeowners near

Gainesville, Florida and his results concurred with others

(Gardner et al. 1985; 1987; Carpenter et al. 1986) who found

that homeowners tend to ". assign low probabilities of

occurrences" to fire hazards and "prefer policy strategies

that shift the hazard management responsibility to public

resource managers" rather than to themselves (Gardner et al.


Cook (1989b) concurred with Gardner et al. (1987), who

concluded that people have a vague understanding of the

natural world around them and with the intrinsic hazards

associated with wildland. Nonetheless, Cook's preliminary

research established that even though people living in the

wildland/urban interface have a poor understanding of the

problem, there is an interest and willingness to learn.

Wildland/urban residents desire specific information about

prescribed burning, including what happens to wildlife in the


case of fire (Cortner et al. 1984). Taylor (1984) discovered

that many people in his study actually found light burns in

Ponderosa pine forests to be aesthetically pleasing.

In addition, Sorensen (1983) states

The process by which people acquire information and
knowledge about rare natural events as well as
other environmental topics that have an impact on
society, is not well documented or understood. .
.The research findings suggest that the individual
process of acquiring information on natural hazards
is as diverse and fragmented as the efforts and
attempts to disseminate it Contrary to other
studies, awareness of a hazard was not found to be
a good predictor of knowledge of adaptive behavior.

Sorenson's findings agree with Forrester (1971), who

found that an individual or a governmental agency trying to

solve a problem might actually be exacerbating it. This can

be caused by lack of agency cooperation, inappropriate

techniques for the problem, failure to involve all affected

participants, both agencies and individuals; and lack of

interest by citizens until late in the planning process.

Other authors (Kates 1971; Burton et al. 1978) make the

poignant comment that natural hazards are nothing but natural

events until they come in contact with human systems. In the

same vein, Mitchell (1974) states that what might be consid-

ered a natural hazard by one society is taken in stride by

another. Hewitt (1983) claims that current methods of dealing

with natural hazards (post-disaster relief) are sending the

message to individuals that there is no problem that the

government can not fix.


Rossi et al. (1982) interviewed "community elites" in

twenty states and 100 communities that were exposed to four

natural hazards (not including wildfire) and concluded that

concern over natural hazards among these community elites was

low. They also found that the interviewees were more support-

ive of traditional policy approaches, including structural

mitigations and post-disaster relief from the Federal govern-

ment. Support for hazard mitigation measures was low.

However, the fieldwork of Rossi et al. was done thirteen years

ago, before the Federal government philosophically changed

policy emphasis from federal-based assistance to local


In a more recent study Palm, 1990 investigated earth-

quakes via the use of an "integrative framework," and viewed

response to a hazard from three levels,

Those subjects that are indivisible as functioning
units (the human individual) and small aggregates
that function as units (the household) are consid-
ered micro levels of analysis. The socio-politico-
cultural environment within which individuals/-
households function (the nonphysical environment or
milieu) are considered macro scale. (Palm, 1990, p.

Palm notes that much research has been conducted at the

micro level, but very little at the macro level. Her study of

earthquakes, links the micro and macro levels and identifies

an intermediate, meso level, that includes "planners, emergen-

cy managers, real estate agents, or other bureaucrats who

translate societal rules to constrain or enable the actions of


Palm continues

A problem within this research tradition has been,
as Saarinen has pointed out, that there is rela-
tively little known about 'what behavioral differ-
ence does it make if a person has an inaccurate
versus a more accurate perception of a particular
hazard. (Palm 1990, p. 65 quoting Saarinen, 1982,
p. 2)

While there is a large volume of sample-survey research

dealing with natural hazards at the micro (individual) level

there are few studies of decision makers at the meso level.

Some of the questions concerning the poor macro-micro inter-

play can be answered with a better understanding of these

people in the middle; who they are, what they are doing, and


What Is Being Done Now

Can any of the problems of fire at the wildland/urban

interface be addressed from within the garbage can model? I

believe so. But first research of a more holistic nature than

the pieces written with an emergency services orientation must

be reviewed.

One issue that has begun to arise is one of priorities.

Fire fighting resources have been directed more and more

toward structures placed in the wildlands which has allowed

fires to destroy more forest than would have been the case had

the structures not been there (Walt 1989). Walt also notes

that the total loss due to wildfire since 1970 in California

has been approximately equal to the losses from earthquakes or


floods during the same period of time, and this is consider-

ably amount.

Cortner et al. (1990) interviewed a wide range of USDA

Forest Service fire management personnel searching for

priorities in fire fighting. Resources came out last on the

protection priority list among the very people whose job is

supposedly to protect the resources. They are being forced to

protect lives first, private property second, only then

forest resources (see also Cortner and Lorensen unpublished).

But if it is not the fire fighting professional land managers'

jobs to protect the people living in the interface from

wildfire, whose job is it? If private citizens are not

particularly interested and public land management agencies

have readily moved into the area to fight the fires, where

lies the problem? The problem is that public land managers

are beginning to want out. The solution may rest with county

and local governments. These government agencies do not have

fire suppression capabilities to deal with fires in the

interface (Walt 1989), nor do they realize that protecting

homes in the interface will create impacts that are not

intuitively obvious in, at least three ways, as Irwin (1987 p-

40) states:

First, it requires an increased fire management
capability, that of managing both wildland and
structural forces at the same time. Second, it
materially increases costs: protection of life and
property become primary objectives and all nearby
structures must be guarded by additional forces,
even though they may not be directly or immediately

threatened. Finally, defense of structures inevi-
tably results in greater natural resource losses.

Counties have not shown much interest in dealing with the

problem (Bradshaw 1987), but perhaps it has not been simply a

lack of interest on their part, but also a lack of assigning

a high priority to problem solving by state and federal

governments. A clear example of a rural county that has

taken it upon itself to deal with the problem on its own is

Jefferson County, Colorado (Groves 1988) where

The county planning department was in the process
of developing a geographic information/modeling
system (GIS) to be used for plan development and
development review. We applied for and received
funds from the state that helped us to continue
development of the automated system and collect
resource information about the county such as
vegetation, surface material, geology, and a host
of other issues. (p. 91)

Groves goes on to lay out what, to my knowledge, is a

unique program for a rural county in addressing the problem.

Jefferson County included wildfire in all aspects of its

planning efforts, from the very beginning, instead of seeing

the problem as not being integral to the planning process.

The county includes wildfire as part of its comprehensive land

use plan; in its zoning; review of developments; building

permits and even includes an information and education

program, all within the context of a GIS program.

A point to be noted is that the initial impetus to begin

the process came from the state, in the form of legislation.

The county was prepared to capitalize upon the states interest

and obtained state money to proceed (p. 91). So the state

government was involved at two levels, providing a goad and

later a carrot, but the county had an interest even before

state action.

Enter the Current Research

Perhaps the most succinct description of where this

research will fit into the problem of protecting people,

economic natural resources, watershed, and ecosystems in the

wildland/urban interface is a quote from Davis (1990 p. 31):

However, efforts at communicating with these groups
[the public, particularly policy leaders] have not
been very effective, the large number of meetings,
symposia, and workshops held throughout the nation
have had one result--fire fighters talking to fire
fighters. Although homeowners, insurance agents,
community planners, and others with a stake in the
problem have been invited, they failed to see the
need to attend.

These unsuccessful efforts show the need to under-
stand the motivations, perceptions, and values
within and between the various groups involved in
the wildland-urban interface area. Land managers
need to know how these people influence the adop-
tion of fire-safe ideas and practices. How can
motivation and innovation be used, or modified, to
influence the fire awareness and behavior of these
various groups? County agents and farm advisers
have identified agricultural 'opinion leaders' who
must be convinced before other farmers will follow
and accept new ideas. Who are the opinion leaders
in the wildland-urban interface community, and how
do we reach them?

Irwin (1987, 1989) seems to have been the first to

seriously address the problem of lack of state guidelines

pertaining to the way in which counties to deal with this

problem. Irwin (1987, p. 42) notes that:

However, there is strong reason to believe that
much of the weakness could be corrected by

providing legal and technical guidance to both fire
managers and planners. For example, the preponder-
ance of seismic data is in the Safety Elements
because the California Division of Mines and Geolo-
gy developed guidelines for planners. The flooding
background data is in the plans because hydrolo-
gists designed ways for that data to be included,
and the legislature directed its inclusion. In
both cases, description and technical proof of
general public hazards were provided to local
governments. To date, fire services (at all
government levels) apparently have concentrated
their inputs on a case-by-case on issues (italics

What Irwin has done is to throw a challenge into the face

of the complaining land managers. He is telling them to begin

providing base level information to counties and cities on

their hazard of interest (wildfire) like those involved in

other hazards (earthquakes and floods) if they expect similar

coverage in county plans. Irwin followed his own advice in

1989 and published A Discussion of the County General Plan and

the Role of Strategic Fire Protection Planning under the

auspices of the California Department of Forestry and Fire


Davis (1987) surveyed fire managers in several states and

found concern, but there appears to have been no direct action

taken to redress the lack of guidelines given to counties for

their general plans. In one of the few peer reviewed publica-

tions on the issue of wildfire at the wildland/urban inter-

face, Davis (1990) covers a broad range of topics including

the problem of lack of county and city planning (p. 30). Only

with a rather oblique reference to the problem of providing

useful information to county planners Davis (1988) suggests


that understanding the dynamics of demographics (e.g. educa-

tional and cultural background, previous living situations,

environmental awareness, etc.) of the people who move into the

interface area would be helpful.

Rice and Davis (1991) researched the situation in three

foothills counties of central California, in the same area in

which Irwin works. They found that (p. ii):

General Plans in California generally neglect
mitigation measures--the language is often 'encour-
age' vs. 'shall.' Fire protection strategies for
all three counties have been to zone for low densi-
ty in high fire hazard areas.

Existing regulations provide opportunities for fire
departments to review plans and voice opinions,
however, fire departments are often too small to
promulgate regulations. Small departments, usually
supported by local taxes, find that stiff regula-
tions are difficult to have passed by elected
officials because of the influence of the real
estate industry. Also, these small departments do
not have the resources to check plans or to attend
community planning meetings. In contrast, large
fire departments have assigned plans-checkers and
may have more influence.

It is clear from this statement that county governments

could greatly benefit from state and federal help similar to

the help that has been provided in the cases of earthquake and

flood hazards. It is also clear from the research cited above

that there is not much interaction between federal, state, and

county planning and policy implementation. I am tempted to

suggest that "Muddling Through" (Lindblom 1959; Golde 1976) is

the technique being used by county governments to manage. It

is a technique that has served them well in the past, but does

not respond quickly to a need for change. In fact the only


continuity is between fire fighters at the three levels of

government and they do not seem to be solving the problem,

just complaining about it and suggesting what others should do

to solve it.

Current Research

This research is intended to fill a void in the litera-

ture. There have no books written that have seriously

included wildfire at the wildland/urban interface as a natural

hazard. Coverage has either been nil or cursory. As the

above literature review clearly demonstrates, almost nothing

has been published in juried journals on the issue. Nearly

all that has been written has come from professionals in the

emergency services field. Without intending to diminish the

important contributions of Irwin and Davis and others, I do

believe that my research will be of value to professionals in

the field. I have demonstrated concisely very important

differences between professionals working at the federal and

state governments on one hand and county officials on the

other. Furthermore through the use of the Kingdon model, I

have clearly shown that administrators in counties without

Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Plans view the problem significant-

ly differently from those in counties with such plans. I have

also shown where those differences lay.


1.The difference between a "natural hazard" and a "natural
disaster" is one of timing. A natural hazard is the actual
event that occurs, say an earthquake, or in my case, a
wildfire, while a natural disaster is the damage done to
humans and the human built environment by the occurrence of
the natural hazard.

2. Major exceptions to this generality include the massive
transfer of federal money to California for all phases of
earthquake hazard work (Palm 1990) and for coastal zone
management work in the southeastern states (Petak and Atkisson

3. The "Garbage Can Model" referred to here by Alesch and
Petak and elsewhere by Mittler was apparently originally
proposed by Cohen, March and Olsen in "A Garbage Can Model of
Organizational Choice," Administrative Sciences Quarterly:
17:1-25. It was elaborated by March and Olsen in their book
Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations in 1976. Kingdon
revised the model and used it to assess governmental policy
making in his book Agendas. Alternatives, and Public Choice in
1984. Subsequently, it is from Kingdon's book that Alesch and
Petak, and Mittler took their direction.

4. This "Conceptual Policy Making Model" makes so much sense
that I will quote extensively from Alesch and Petak. A
problem must exist before action can be even contemplated. A
problem can be thought of as a disparity between the perceived
and desired states of affairs. Therefore, a given set of
phenomena may constitute a problem for some and not for
others, depending on their respective values and perceptions.
Research suggests strongly that most people tend to discount
dramatically the risks associated with low-probability, but
high consequence events. Most people never experience a
severe earthquake and regard the probability of one occurring
as very low. Therefore even if the prospect of a killer
earthquake exists, the event is likely to have low political
salience, especially for citizens and public officials who
have more urgent matters on their minds.
Solutions, in the garbage can model, exist independent of
problems. In order for policy to be made, it is necessary
that someone match a solution that is generally perceived as
workable with a problem that is generally considered to
warrant some action.
However, having a problem and a matching solution is not
enough. there must also be actors who are willing to invest
the considerable amount of time and energy required to match
a solution with a problem, and there must be an opportunity to
get the matter on the agenda. That is, there must be a window


of opportunity--a time when the actors, solution, and problem
can be brought together in an appropriate forum and find space
on the agenda in order for policy to be formulated.


Overview of Research

Identification of Study Sites

To be included in the study a county had to fall into at

least one of three categories:

1. It must have had a wildfire that destroyed
structures built in the interface in the last
ten years, or

2. A comprehensive wildfire hazard mitigation
plan must have been developed, or

3. A state forester has identified it as being
very vulnerable to the occurrence of a wild-
fire in the wildland/urban interface.

Counties were identified by consulting state forest fire

records and state forestry officials, in various states. An

attempt to locate some counties ranking high in each of the

categories was made. However, as no data were available to

neatly place counties into the listed categories, there is a

chance that some good candidates were missed.

The study includes 37 counties in twelve states (see

Figure 1 and Table 3-1). It must be made clear that this was

not a random sample survey. States that have the most severe

problem with wildfire at the wildland/urban interface were

identified through information made available by the National


Fire Prevention Association. Contact was made with fire

management professionals in those states in order to select

the two to four counties that exhibited the greatest vulnera-

bility or historical frequency of occurrence of wildfire.



C Cr)



~ 3


o .E

Table 3-1
Responses to Survey
State-County Mailed Out Returned % Returned

WA-Okanogan 20 15 75%
County 9 6 67%
State 4 3+1* 75%
Federal 7 6 86%
WA-Spokane 16 11 69%
County 13 8 62%
State 2 2+1* 100%
Federal 1 1 100%
WA-Chelan 17 10 59%
County 10 7 70%
State +1 +1* 0%
Federal 6+1 3 43%
WA-Kittitas 15 7 47%
County 10 3 33%
State 2 1+2* 50%
Federal 3+1 3 75%
County 42 24 57%
State 9 7* 78%
Federal 18 13 68%
MI-Delta 14 11 79%
County 9 6 67%
State 1 1+1* 100%
Federal 4 4 100%
MI-Crawford 12 7 58%
County 11 6 55%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 0 0 0%
MI-Ogemaw 17 8 47%
County 14 6 43%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 2 2 100%
County 34 18 53%
State 4 4* 100%
Federal 6 6 100%
*Includes respondents involved in more than one county.

Table 3-1--continued
State-County Mailed Out Returned % Returned

CO-Jefferson 10 7 70%
County 7 5 71%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 2 1 50%
CO-Summit 14 9 64%
County 11 7 64%
State 1+1 0+1* 0%
Federal 2 2 100%
CO-Boulder 11 6 55%
County 8 5 63%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 2 0 0%
CO-Chaffee 17 12 71%
County 11 7 64%
State 2+1 2+1* 100%
Federal 4 3 75%
County 37 24 65%
State 6 5* 83%
Federal 10 6 60%
MT-Lewis & Clark 15 11 73%
County 8 6 75%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 6 4 67%
MT-Flathead 16 12 75%
County 8 5 63%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 7 6 86%
MT-Missoula 17 13 76%
County 8 5 63%
State 2+1 2+1* 100%
Federal 7 6 86%
County 24 16 67%
State 5 5* 100%
Federal 20 16 80%
*Includes respondents involved in more than one county.

Table 3-1--continued
State-County Mailed Out Returned % Returned

AZ-Yavapai 17 11 65%
County 11 6 55%
State 1+1 0+0 0%
Federal 5 5 100%
AZ-Gila 19 10 53%
County 8 2 25%
State 1+1 1+0 100%
Federal 9 7 78%
County 19 8 42%
State 3 1 33%
Federal 14 12 86%
OR-Jackson 19 15 79%
County 9 6 67%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 10 8 80%
OR-Douglas 19 14 74%
County 10 5 50%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 8 8 100%
OR-Deschutes 19 12 63%
County 10 6 60%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 8 5 63%
OREGON TOTAL 57 42 72%
County 28 17 56%
State 4 4* 100%
Federal 25 21 84%
*Includes respondents involved in more than one county.

Table 3-1--continued
State-County Mailed Out Returned % Returned

FL-Charlotte 10 8 80%
County 8 6 67%
State 0+5 0+5* 0%
Federal 0 0 0%
FL-Sarasota 9 5 56%
County 8 4 50%
State 2+3 2+3* 100%
Federal 0 0 0%
FL-Flagler 13 10 77%
County 12 9 75%
State 1+3 1+3* 100%
Federal 0 0 0%
County 28 19 68%
State 6 6* 100%
Federal 0 0 0%
SD-Pennington 16 10 63%
County 12 6 50%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 3 3 100%
SD-Lawrence 15 9 60%
County 12 7 58%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 2 1 50%
SD-Custer 12 9 75%
County 9 6 67%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 2 2 100%
SO. DAKOTA TOTAL 44 29 66%
County 33 19 58%
State 4 4* 100%
Federal 7 6 86%
*Includes respondents involved in more than one county.

Table 3-1--continued
State-County Mailed Out Returned % Returned

CA-Santa Barbara 14 13 93%
County 9 8 89%
State 0+1 0+1* 0%
Federal 5 5 100%
CA-Plumas 20 16 75%
County 7 6 86%
State +1 +1* 0%
Federal 13 10 77%
CA-Eldorado 20 15 75%
County 10 6 60%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 9 8 89%
County 26 20 74%
State 2 2* 100%
Federal 27 23 85%
TX-Denton 10 5 50%
County 8 1 13%
State 2+1 2+1* 100%
Federal 0 0 0%
TX-Bexar 9 7 78%
County 8 6 75%
State 1+1 1+1* 100%
Federal 0 0 0%
TX-Harris 10 3 33%
County 7 2 29%
State 3+1 2+1* 66%
Federal 0 0 0%
TEXAS TOTAL 30 15 50%
County 23 9 39%
State 7 6* 86%
Federal 0 0 0%
*Includes respondents involved in more than one county.

Table 3-1--continued


Mailed Out


% Returned






County 339
State 58
Federal 138
*Includes respondents involved in more than

one county.

**County respondents represented 54.7% of the total response;
State respondents represented 13.6% of the total response;
Federal respondents represented 31.7% of the total response.


















Identifying Officials to Interview

The decision makers interviewed in this research repre-

sent three distinct groups; county, state, and federal

employees involved in decision making (or policy establish-

ment) as regards the problem of wildfire at the wildland/urban

interface. Therefore, at the interviewee level, as with the

state and county selection process, this was not a random

survey, but the result of the identification and interviewing

of a precise population within the selected counties.

Interviewees included

1. At the federal level, USDA Forest Service
personnel including District Rangers (or
Bureau of Land Management Resource Area Manag-
ers); National Forest and Ranger District fire
management personnel.

2. State forestry employees closely associated
with wildland/urban interface issues.

3. County elected officials, civil servants,
appointed positions, and volunteer fire fight-

To identify decision makers in the selected counties,

about a fourth of interviewees were contacted in advance by

telephone. These official's assistance was invaluable in

identifying other decision makers. Five hundred forty-four

individuals were identified and eventually contacted.

Administration of Questionnaire

Initial plans were to administer the questionnaire via

telephone, but other survey researchers advised that the

questionnaire was too long and two intricate to administer via

that technique. Mail questionnaires are less likely to be


misinterpreted by the interviewee and less expensive to

administer if labor costs are not considered. Questionnaire

design and administration followed the recommendations of

Dillman (1978).

Each interviewee was sent a color and number coded

questionnaire (brown=county; green=state, blue=federal)

identifying them individually, their home state, level of

government employment. A cover letter, return postage, and a

return mailing label (to be affixed to the same envelope used

for the outgoing mailing) were included. After one week, each

individual was reminded by a follow-up postcard (even though

no one had time to return the questionnaire in that period of

time, Dillman suggests that it will get the questionnaire out

from under other work and bring it back to the receivers

attention). After one month, a second copy of the question-

naire along with a cover letter, a return label, but no return

postage was mailed to each non-respondent. Finally, after

seven weeks a third copy of the questionnaire complete with

cover letter and return label were sent. This final appeal

went via certified mail in an attempt to convince the inter-

viewee of the seriousness of the research.

Using Dillman's method, return percentage were good, with

369 out of 543 (68%) questionnaires being completed and

returned (even before those that went to persons no longer

involved, the terminally ill, ones that county employees

refused to deliver to planning commissioners, etc. were


subtracted). As can be seen in Table 3-1 return rates varied

from state to state and from county to county. Return rates

also differed substantially between the three levels of

government, with the county responses being the lowest at

59.6%, state at 86.2%, and federal at 84.8%. The great

disparity between the county responses and the other two is

not surprising as county interviewees frequently (as will be

presented later) had a wider range of responsibilities than

did state or federal respondents. The high rate of non-

responses from county officials may be the result of individu-

als being contacted within county governments who do not

consider this issue enough of a problem to warrant responding.

Survey Questionnaire Contents

Each of the individuals was asked both closed and open-

ended questions (Appendix 1). Questions were roughly pat-

terned after those used by Rossi et al. (1982) for their book,

Natural Hazards and Public Choice, in which they surveyed

"community elites" on a range of natural hazard topics which,

however, did not include wildfire.

To obtain the best profile of the interviewees, a number

of open-ended questions were inserted following key closed-

ended ones.

The robustness of a certain statement is not based upon

the number of questions tested which supported the hypotheses

being tested. Responses to questions that were pertinent to


the hypotheses were tested. In some cases this meant a large

number of questions and in others a rather small number. The

survey was designed to contain as little redundancy as

possible, thus avoiding the pitfall of having responses to

several questions providing information that is highly

correlated. I believe that there is little correlation among

the various questions tested. Each question sought unique


Specific Objectives

Objective 1.

To test for consistency of responses among federal
decision makers working in different counties,
utilizing questions that probe interviewees knowl-
edge of wildland/urban interface history, issues,
and problems; analysis of attitudes toward exist-
ing and hypothetical management scenarios; and
their involvement in and attitude toward wildfire
hazard mitigation measures. Similar tests for
consistency among state and county decision makers
utilizing questions tailored specifically to each
group were performed.

The first objective was tested via analyses of responses

to questions asked of all interviewees, including the rating

of wildland/urban interface problems (Questions 1, 2, and 3),

the importance of wildfire as a hazard (Q4 and Q8), knowledge

of past wildfires in their county (Q5-Q7), attitude toward

mitigation measures (Q13, Q14, Federal Questions 18 and 20,

State Questions 22-25, and County Questions 29-31).


Questions specific to one level of government were also

analyzed. Federal decision makers were probed for attitudes

towards mitigation measures that would involve federal

agencies (F9-F12, F15), knowledge of mitigation measures

initiated by an interviewees own agency (F16), and knowledge

of involvement by federal agencies (F21).

State decision makers knowledge of, and attitude toward,

mitigation measures that a state might take (S9, SlOa, SlOb,

Sll, S12a, S15, S16a, S17, S18a, S18b) were analyzed. County

decision makers were asked similar questions pertaining to

actions a county might take (C9, C12, C15a, C17, C18, C19a,

C19b, C20, C21a). It was expected that federal decision

makers would exhibit the most uniformity in their responses;

state decision makers would show less uniformity; and that

county decision makers would muster the least uniformity.

Objective 2.

To assess the uniformity of responses between the
three levels of decision makers, e.g. are federal
decision maker responses similar to those from
state and county decision makers, utilizing the
same comparisons as objective 1.

When testing the hypothesis of inter-group uniformity of

responses amongst the three groups, individuals were compared

on the following issues:

1. Rating problems associated with the wildland/
urban interface (Q1, Q2a), and who should be
responsible for them (Q3);

2. Rating the importance of wildfire as a natural
hazard (Q4 and Q8);


3. Knowledge of past wildfires in the county (Q5-Q7);

4. Attitude toward mitigation measures (C28-C31, S21-
S24, F17-F20).

It was assumed that federal and state responses would be

more closely associated than either federal and county or

state and county as questionnaires were sent to federal and

state individuals who work with fire as a profession. County

respondents, on the other hand included a wider range of

professions, including people who work with fire as a profes-

sion, but also included county commissioners who are politi-

cians with varied backgrounds, planning personnel who may be

trained to deal with urban expansion, and perhaps the most

varied, the planning commissioners, who have been either

elected or appointed and come from widely disparate back-

grounds, from business professionals to housewives.

Objective 3.

To determine how these responses and propositions
vary among decision makers with different personal
backgrounds, education, and experience with the

To better understand the depth and breadth of individual

federal, state, and county decision maker involvement in and

attitude toward adoption of wildfire hazard mitigation

measures the following information was solicited:

1. Demographics, including professional experience,
experience with the hazard, education, and length
of residency in state and county ( Questions C32a,
C32b, C33b, C33e, C34, C35, C37, C27a, C27b, C28b,
C28f, C29, C30, C32, C23a, C23b, C24b, C24e, C25,
C26, C27, S27a, S27b, S32b, F23a, 23b).


2. Is wildfire at the wildland/urban interface a
problem, and if so how important, and who should
address it (Q1, Q2a)?

The assumption is that individual federal decision makers

have greater experience, are the most knowledgeable, and have

the greatest interest in the adoption of mitigation measures,

with less knowledge and interest among state decision makers,

and, even less among county decision makers.

Objective 4.

To test the validity of the Kingdon model on wild-
fire hazards at the wildland/urban interface. Have
counties with wildfire hazard mitigation plans in
place met the four criteria of the model; (1) was
there a perceived problem, (2) were solutions
recognized, (3) were people available to work on
the issue, and (4) was a window of opportunity open
in which to implement the measures? Conversely,
were any of these criteria missing in a county
where mitigation measures were not adopted?

The Kingdon model was tested utilizing government

decision makers attitudes and actions toward wildfire at the

wildland/ urban interface

The first "stream", namely "is there a problem", was

addressed by several questions in the questionnaire, including

Q1, Q3, Q5, Q7, Q32a, and Q32b.

Analysis of the second required stream, "are there solu-

tions,", utilized questions Q6, Q9, Q8, C27, C28b, C29, C30,

C31, ClOa, C11, C12a, C13, C14a, C15a, C16, C17, and C18.

The third stream requirement, whether there are people

available to work on the issue, was addressed through qualita-

tive explanations to questions C27-6, C27-7, C27-8, C33a.


Finally, to find out whether there was a window of

opportunity in which to implement the measures, questions Q4c

and Q5b were analyzed. These items sought information on past

fire history in the county. Conversely, were any of these

criteria missing in county where mitigation measures were not


Chapter 4 provides analysis and comments on the responses

to the questions identified above. Each objective is investi-

gated in depth and the results are compared to the original



This chapter includes analysis pertinent to the first

three objectives discussed in Chapter 3. To allow more

thorough perusal of the analyzed data in tabular format and to

reexamine specific question wording, Appendices 1 and 2 have

been included.

Are These Individuals Unique?

The assumption that federal officials would be more alike

than their state counterparts, who in turn would be more alike

than county employees was extensively probed.

Analysis of responses concerning the existence of

problems in the WUI, the responses revealed some intra-group

consistency but perhaps not as much as expected. The federal

respondents exhibited strong uniformity of responses on only

three of 14 problems; "Planning," "Fire Protection for Homes,"

and "Increased Wildfire Potential." State officials agreed on

"Planning," "Fire Protection for Homes," "Competing Government

Agencies," and Increased Wildfire Potential." County respon-

dents showed strong consistency on "Fire Protection for

Homes," and "Increased Wildfire Potential."


On two of the problems where responses indicate intra-

group consistency, there is also consistency between groups.

Clearly there is not much evidence to draw strong conclusions

on intra-group consistency differences among the three groups.

Since the common denominator for the individuals who were

surveyed is an involvement in WUI problems, it should not be

surprising that they all tend to agree (regardless of their

level of government) on wildfire issues and are more likely to

disagree on other issues with which they have less knowledge.

It appears from responses on this issue that working on WUI

problems is more important in contributing consistency than

working within a particular level of government.

When asked for other problems specifically related to the

wildland/urban interface a phenomenon that occurs repeatedly

throughout this study first surfaced. Even though 217 out of

369 people had other problems that they felt were important,

intra-group consistency varies. Sixty seven percent of

federal responses were "Yes", 20% "No", and only 13% failed to

offer any additional problems. Most state officials (72%) had

other important problems to highlight, 12% did not, and only

12% failed to respond. At the county level, on the other

hand, only 51% had further problems, 30% had none, but an

important issue here is that 20% failed to respond at all. It

is clear that at the county level there are fewer "Other

Problems". This may be a reflection of the greater diversity

of job categories represented by county respondents. They


agreed on the big issues related to the WUI, as evidenced by

their agreement on the importance of wildfire as a problem,

but that agreement is rather shallow, and when asked for other

problems, they came up short.

Intra-group consistency emerged the strongest at the

state level, followed by federal, and finally county. The

hypothesis of consistency is supported by the county respons-

es, but not in the federal and state answers.

Concerning what problems are bothering individuals, both

federal and state respondents clustered their problems into

three categories, "Private citizen problems," "Administrative

Problems," and "Resource Management Problems," with 84% of

the problems listed falling into one of these categories. But

county responses showed less uniformity, with only 70% of the

"Other problems" being in these three groups, thus supporting

the hypothesis. The same explanation given above holds true

once again. County officials have other things on their mind,

and although they address the large issues related to the WUI,

they also concentrate on other major issues related to other

county problems. These other major issues are more important

than small items related to the WUI fire problem.

When given a list of WUI problems and asked who should be

responsible for each, some interesting sub-group differences


Federal respondents ascribed primary responsibility for

"Planning" (65%), "Home Fire Protection" (65%), "Road


Maintenance" (77%), "Zoning" (85%); "New Road Construction"

(71%), and "Demand For Urban Services" (64%) to counties.

They allocated responsibility for "Water Pollution" (53%), and

"Competing Demands For Water (64%) to state government. On

"Soil Erosion" and "Commercial Timber Adjacent To Homes" there

was no majority agreement.

Arising from these responses are two important points,

(1) not in one instance did a majority of federal employees

feel that federal or municipal governments are primarily

responsible for any of these problems; 2) in two problems

there was no consensus as to what level of government should

be responsible, while on two other items they could muster

only 56% agreement.

State respondents gave to county government responsi-

bility for; "Planning" (80%), "Home Protection" (56%), "Road

Maintenance" (88%) "Zoning" (92%), "New Road Construction"

(79%), and "Demand For Urban Services" (70%). They gave

themselves responsibility for "Water Pollution" (59%),

Competing Demands For Water" (62%), and "Commercial Timber

Adjacent To Homes" (50%). There was no majority agreement on

only one problem, "Soil Erosion."

County respondents ascribed responsibility to themselves

for "Planning" (81%); "Road Maintenance" (64%); "Zoning"

(83%); and "New Road Construction" (56%). They gave state

governments responsibility for "Water Pollution" (61%) and

"Competing Demands for Water" (58%). There was no majority


agreement on "Home Fire Protection", "Commercial Timber

Adjacent To Homes", "Demand For Urban Services", and "Soil


To summarize response consistency among the three

subgroups, federal employees exhibited a majority consensus on

what level of government is primarily responsible for eight

out of ten problems. A plurality of state officials found

accord on an equal number; but county respondents could only

muster agreement on six of ten. Once again results partially

support the hypothesis that county officials are less likely

to present a uniform response than either their federal or

state peers.

An explanation might very well be that counties are

continually strapped for funding and they are frequently

searching for help in meeting the financial demands for

services, therefore they have indicated who they wish were

responsible for some of the problems presented. On the other

hand, the federal officials seem to often be wishing that

problems could be dealt with by someone besides county

government, indicating a frustration with inaction, or a lack

of understanding of local politics.

Interviewees were also given a list of natural hazards

and asked whether their jurisdiction had suffered any of them

in the last ten years.

At the federal level there was majority agreement on

"Earthquakes (No, 96%), "Wildfires" (Yes, 91%), "Droughts"


(Yes, 91%), "Mudslides" (No, 70%), "Severe Winds" (Yes, 66%),

"Severe Snowfalls" (Yes, 62%), and "Floods" (Yes, 53%). They

were in majority agreement on all natural disasters.

State employees agreed on "Droughts" (Yes, 100%),

"Wildfires" (Yes, 96%), "Earthquakes" (No, 95%), "Severe

Winds" (Yes, 80%), "Mudslides" (No, 75%), "Severe Snowfall"

(Yes, 66%); and "Floods" (Yes, 57%).

At the county level, the strongest accord was found for

"Earthquakes" (No, 94%), "Wildfires" (Yes, 82%), "Droughts"

(Yes, 83%), "Severe Winds" (Yes, 62%), "Mudslides" (No, 73%),

"Floods" (Yes, 56%), and "Severe Snowfalls" (Yes, 54%).

The above responses allow only one conclusion, that there

is majority agreement within each subgroup on all natural

hazard occurrence between 1982 and 1992. There is no hypothe-

sis support on the issue of hazards. Apparently, the hazards

listed were important enough that most individuals were aware

of their occurrence.

After asking what natural hazards had occurred in their

jurisdiction in the past ten years, officials were queried as

to the probability of the same hazards occurring in the next

ten years.

Measures of central tendencies, standard deviation and

kurtosis that identify sub-group continuity were investigated

for these responses. Uniform criteria of a standard deviation

of less than 29 and/or a positive kurtosis were used to

indicate significant agreement.


Using the above criteria, federal respondents presented

agreement on five out of seven hazards (71%), "Drought",

"Wildfires", "Mudslides", "Earthquakes", and "Floods". No

continuity was exhibited for "Severe Winds" or "Severe


State officials agreed on four out of seven (57%)

hazards, "Drought", "Wildfires", Mudslides", and "Earth-

quakes". No continuity was exhibited for "Severe Snowfalls,"

"Severe Winds," or "Floods."

County responses were uniform on three out of seven (43%)

hazards, "Wildfires", "Mudslides", and "Earthquakes". There

was no continuity for "Drought," "Severe Snowfalls," "Severe

Winds," or "Floods."

The hypothesis that federal officials will respond in a

more uniform manner than state counterparts, who will in turn

exhibit more agreement than their county peers is supported

strongly by the above responses. This is a significant

finding, as the probability of a hazard occurring must be high

before government officials will act by instigating mitigation

measures. Since most mitigation measures are introduced at

the county level, the lack of response uniformity among county

officials seems to indicate that this disagreement could

hinder the establishment of measures. Lack of agreement among

county officials may be due to two factors. As has been

demonstrated by responses to other issues, those in charge at

the county level are more likely to leave property owners to


solve their own problems. This attitude would have county

officials getting less excited by an event. For instance, a

"severe snowfall" to a federal official might be viewed as

less serious by their county counterparts because county

government is more likely to expect property owners to dig

themselves out. Secondly, due to the broader nature of their

jobs, individuals working for counties may be better able to

keep "natural hazards" in perspective when viewed against a

background of economic and political problems--problems that

are less intrusive to resource managers at the state and

federal levels of government.

At this point queries were restricted to individuals who

had indicated that a wildfire had occurred in their jurisdic-

tion since 1982. They were asked about long-term consequenc-

es, like long-term economic impacts, as a result of the


Responses from all three sub-groups demonstrated little

agreement, with 59% of federal responses being "Yes"; 52% of

state interviewees being the same; and from the county level,

53% indicating "No." There is precious little support for the

hypothesis on this issue. What does surface is that about

half of the interviewees believed that there have been long-

term effects from the fires and half did not. This lack of

response uniformity among the individuals surveyed once again

bodes badly for those who are attempting to justify the

institution of hazard mitigation measures.


Perhaps the ambiguity among respondents on the problem of

long-term effects from fires in their jurisdictions is more a

reflection of the vagueness of the question than some aspect

attributable to the interviewees themselves. Since all of the

individuals who responded to the survey work for the govern-

ment, they are personally isolated from economic imperatives

(at least within a wide latitude) and the survey is requesting

that they speculate about an issue that is beyond their own


The ambiguity of responses concerning long-term economic

effects leaves little room for surprise on responses about

changes in local or state public policy. Only federal

officials exhibited any agreement, with 81% responding "No."

State and county respondents were about evenly split between

"Yes" and "No." However, it is a little discouraging that

there is not even any agreement concerning policy changes in

counties that had experienced wildfires. Thus, there is some

support for the hypothesis that federal officials are most

likely to exhibit intra-group consistency.

This result is even more difficult to interpret than the

previous one. It would seem reasonable that county officials

in counties that had experienced wildfires would be aware of

policy changes that had resulted from a wildfire occurrence.

When those who responded that there had been policy

changes were asked to elucidate them, once again federal

interviewees gave the most consistent answers with 67% listing


either "Increased Regulation" or "More Interagency Coopera-

tion" as the change. State and county responses were more

diverse, with about half reporting the same two changes.

However, the number of different county responses was a higher

percentage than either of the other sub-groups.

Once again there is some support for the hypothesis, as

federal officials exhibit more agreement than either of their

peer groups.

One of the least expensive and least intrusive of all

hazard mitigation measures that can be taken is to conduct an

educational campaign, enlightening the citizenry about the

problem and eliciting their help to reduce the hazard.

However, it must be kept in mind that the hypothesis under

consideration at this point has nothing to do with what is

being done (or not done), but the level of awareness of what

is being done.

Federal respondents were very consistent in their aware-

ness of educational programs at their level of government with

95% responding "Yes."

State officials split half "No" and half "Yes". To

determine if this split is a result differences in states, or

in knowledge level, responses were disaggregated by state. In

seven states (Colorado, Montana, Arizona, Oregon, Florida,

California, and Utah) and there was a consistent response,

while five states (Washington, Michigan, South Dakota, Texas,

and Arkansas) showed little agreement.


There was considerable agreement at the county level,

with 60% indicating that their county had conducted education-

al campaigns. Disaggregation by county isolated 6 of 37

counties with considerable ambiguity about these programs.

There is some support for the hypothesis, in that federal

officials are more consistent than county and state, but

county respondents are more consistent than their state

counterparts. This is a surprising result, since individuals

interviewed at the state level were all personnel working

within a state forestry agency.

Interviewee support of, and attitudes toward, educational

campaigns also produced some surprises. Using measures of

central tendencies it is clear that responses to this question

are exactly opposite of what the hypothesis predicted.

Federal officials were the least consistent, state personnel

were intermediate, and returns from the county level were the

most in agreement. However, it should be noted that the mean

response from the entire group indicated strong support,

making this a very popular mitigation measure indeed.

To probe the political leanings of government employees,

three different methods of dealing with private property in

the WUI were included in the questionnaire and the interview-

ees were asked to agree or disagree on a 1-5 scale, with 1

being "strongly in favor" and 5 being "strongly opposed". The

first statement suggested that people should be free to choose


to live anywhere and to be individually responsible for the

hazards associated with that place.

On this issue, state responses were the most negative

with 88% marking either a "4" or a "5." At the federal level

72% marked a "4" or a "5." But from county officials, much

less disagreement with this statement emerged with only 54%

marking the same numbers. Measures of central tendencies

indicated highest consistency among state respondents less at

the federal, and the least from individuals in county govern-

ment. Once again county officials were different from their

counterparts in federal and state government. In this case

they are the most likely to leave homeowners and businesses

located in the WUI to solve their own problems without

government "protecting them from themselves". The hypothesis

is supported in a most important fashion as county officials

are less likely to institute mitigation measures that "tread

on the toes" of individual property owners' rights.

This dichotomy of attitudes toward control over private

property rights between federal and state officials, on one

hand, and county officials on the other, may once again

reflect the nature of their positions. Nearly all of the

federal and state respondents were career civil servants with

less connection to the local community than those individuals

who were interviewed at the county level, most of whom were

either elected or appointed. Being elected or appointed to a

position requires significant interaction with members of the


local community, and those who get elected must reflect the

attitudes prevalent in the community. Most of the individuals

surveyed were from rural counties which tend to be more

conservative than their urban counterparts, and people there

often tolerate less interference in their lives.

The second scenario is nearly diametrically opposed to

the first one, in that it holds that government agencies

should regulate the WUI heavily, prohibiting building and

utilizing stringent building and zoning codes where construc-

tion is allowed. Then property owners would be responsible

for their own insurance and fire fighting costs.

Responses to this statement were opposite to the previous

one, with the mean being nearly two points lower, indicating

strong agreement. Consistency among the three groups, as

indicated by measures of central tendencies, were very

similar. Of state respondents, 58% marking either a "2" or a

"3", while County officials marked either a "2" or a "3" 54%

of the time and their federal peers marked either a "1" or a

"2" 59% of the time.

There is nothing here to support the hypothesis under

examination, but it is worthwhile to note that interviewees at

all levels, but especially at the federal level, support the

idea of increased governmental intrusion into private property

owners activities much more strongly than they support the

idea of leaving those property owners to be responsible for

their own safety. The explanation given above holds true


again. Civil servants who manage larger areas, and see a

larger constituency than the local population are more likely

to support increased regulation in rural areas.

The third statement upon which interviewees were asked to

express their agreement involved the idea of making wildfire

insurance mandatory and then letting the marketplace set the

price according to the safety of the site. This is a mix of

"heavy handed" government and libertarian ideas.

On this issue, once again there was a wide range of

responses. Federal officials marked "3," "4," and "5" almost

equally, state respondents checked "3" and "4" 58% of the time

while their county peers selected "4" or "5" 56% of the time

("5" indicates strong opposition).

As above, there is nothing here to support the hypothesis

that federal people will exhibit the most consistency.

However, at another level, it is worth noting that county

interviewees disagree most strongly with the statement, while

their federal and state counterparts are more in agreement,

supporting my earlier speculative statements.

Federal and state interviewees were also asked to

identify the appropriate level of involvement in joint WUI

hazard mitigation. Eighty-six percent of the federal offi-

cials agreed that the proper roll of a federal agency is "as

a member of a joint program with state and local agencies."

There is much more agreement from federal officials here than

might be anticipated, given the ambiguity of some federal


responses and the inclination to dismiss the importance of

responsibility of the county level of government. Recall that

on many issues of responsibility, federal officials frequently

indicated that the level of government that should be respon-

sible for WUI issues should be either federal or state, rather

than county government. This is just the opposite opinion

expressed by most county officials and in this case, state

responses frequently supported the county position.

This is contrasted with their state counterparts, of

which 64% believed that the proper role of a state agency is

"a lead agency in a joint program." This is rather strong

agreement among state officials on this very important issue.

Federal officials were then asked about the establishment

of uniform policies between federal agencies, or whether such

policies exist now, and if they support this kind of inter-

agency cooperation. Responses on the issue of uniformity of

policies indicate very little agreement which seems to

indicate that there was very little knowledge of this type of

cooperation, nor had it been discussed much.

There is support for the concern of many that federal

agencies tend to compete more than they cooperate with each

other. There is also support for those who say that each

National Forest or BLM Resource Area is run like a little

fiefdom with insufficient coordination between separate units.

Many subjective comments made by federal interviewees suggest

this, as they were concerned that joint policies with other


federal agencies would not be flexible enough to deal with the

unique conditions that exist in their jurisdiction.

State officials were queried concerning the establishment

of statewide building codes and a state land use oversight

agency--whether one existed, and support for the establishment

of such an agency. Unlike their federal counterparts, state

officials were knowledgeable of these issues and there was

nearly complete agreement on the existence of statewide

building codes (generally they were not) and whether officials

wanted them (they did). There was much agreement on whether

their state had any WUI site requirements. Similar responses

occurred concerning a state land use oversight agency. Only

two states had them and nearly everyone knew the status in

their state. There was strong agreement among these individu-

als on this issue, as nearly everyone wanted one, the stron-

gest support of any group for additional regulation. Even

when state officials were asked about their willingness to

increase taxes to collect money to help pay the cost of fire

fighting in the WUI, they strongly approved. State officials

were very consistent in their knowledge of state laws and

regulations and in their desire for more regulation and taxes.

At the county level, there was strong support for the

idea of instituting building codes and other regulations

directly related to wildland/urban interface areas and that

support was very consistent with 78% either checking "1" or

"2" on a 1-5 scale with 1 being strong support. They wanted


these regulations to protect people and property and to reduce

the fire hazard, with about 70% mentioning these items as the

basis for their support.

County officials were also queried as to the effective-

ness of Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Plans. They were first

asked about the effectiveness of the plan for people living in

the WUI and then about the effectiveness of the plan for

people who want to buy or build in that area. Respondents

were very consistent in their agreement on the first state-

ment, with 75% agreeing. On the latter there was slightly

less agreement but support was still quite strong at 65%. The

difference between the consistency on the two ideas may

reflect the belief among WUI officials that the major problem

they have is people without information about the hazard

moving into the WUI from cities Since these people live

beyond the WUI officials' jurisdiction, they will be hard to

reach with any programs in advance of their moving into the


Getting to the heart of the matter, county interviewees

were asked about the existence of a formal Wildfire Hazard

Mitigation Plan in their county. Somewhat unsettling, county

respondents in 12 (32%) of the counties exhibited serious

ambiguity in their responses. On some issues 68% consistency

is very good, but in the case of this very important question,

68% is quite weak and brings into question the claim that


nearly all of the individuals contacted are involved in the

problem of the fire at the Wildland/Urban Interface.

County officials who responded that their county had a

formal WHMP were asked how the program was instituted.

Responses are not confidence inspiring. More individuals

responded than on the lead-in question, an impossibility for

those who can follow simple instructions. After first

eliminating counties with ambiguous responses, and then

disqualifying the counties that produced ambiguous answers,

there were five counties that have definite programs, and

three had some kind of program. Even being optimistic and

saying that individuals from eight counties generally agreed

that they have a formal plan and those from 17 counties

generally agreed that they had no formal program, that still

leaves 25 (65%) of the counties where officials' statements

were very ambiguous. This is a disturbing lack of agreement.

There is no way to put a good face on these responses. They

simply indicate that even county officials who claim to be

involved with WUI issues are not very involved. When individ-

uals in 65% of the counties investigated, counties that are

supposed to be some of the most susceptible to wildfire

hazards, can not even agree whether their county has a formal

wildfire program or not, then there is only one conclusion to

be drawn. This is not a big issue in those counties.

There is some brightness in this overall murkiness--all

but one of the individuals who reported that their county had


a Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Program followed-up by agreeing

that those programs were active.

All county officials were then queried as to their

attitude toward WHMPs and there was no ambiguity, as 78%

indicated either "Strong Agreement" or "Agreement" on the

importance of having such a plan. Perhaps this bodes change

in the future.

The consistency of responses to the above items are

summarized in Table 4-1. For full text of the question see

the questionnaire included as Appendix 1, and analysis of most

questions is included in Appendix 2.

When searching for consistency among the sub-groups on

questions that were asked of all interviewees, only the

results from question one produces full support to the

hypothesis that federal interviewees would be the most

consistent, state people less consistent, and county respon-

dents the least consistent. On 38% of the issues there was a

total lack of support, while partial agreement was found in 9

cases (56%). Looking at the totals from the table, federal

and state officials demonstrate intra-group agreement an equal

number of times (7 times or 44%). The hypothesis proposed

that state respondents would be intermediate in consistency

most often, but this situation occurs only 4 times (25%). The

hypothesis also states that county respondents will be the

least consistent of the three groups, but this occurs on only

7 questions (44%).

Table 4-1
Support for Hypothesis #
Number Federal*



1, Common Questions





* Consistency of agreement.

There is only weak support for the hypothesis from items in

Table 4-1.

The search for intra-group agreement continued by

investigating items that were only asked of individuals from

a single level of government.

The hypothesis remains the

same. Federal data is summarized in Table 4-2; state in Table

4-3; and county in 4-4.



Table 4-2
Support for Hypothesis
Question Number

Federal Questions


Table 4-3
Support for Hypothesis

# 1, Unique Federal Questions
Consistency Hypo. Support

36% Don't Know
Normal Dist.
32% Top 2 Resp.
45% No; 36% Yes
55% 1 or 2
86% Joint Prog.
57% Yes; 33% No
51% Active



# 1, Unique State Questions

State Questions

92% No
80% Yes
Wide Range
86% No
71% 1 or 2
Wide Range
Normal Dist.
Wide Range
58% 1 or 2
Wide Range
66% Lead/Joint


Table 4-4
Support for Hypothesis # 1, Unique County Questions
Question Number Consistency Hypo. Support

County Questions
9 No Ambiguity Strong
10a 78% 1 or 2 Strong
10b 69% top 2 Strong
12a 71% 1 or 2 Strong
12b 41% agree on 2 Weak
15a Ambiguous None
17 75% agreement Strong
18 65% agreement Strong
19a 68% agreement Strong
19b Ambiguous None

The three tables reveal a total rejection of the hypothe-

sis that there will be a lessening of consistency as the

analysis of results moves from federal to state to county

levels of government. County interviewees demonstrate 70%

agreement; responses from state officials were in agreement

only 45% of the time; while federal officials only mustered

agreement 25% of the time.

In conclusion, support for the first hypothesis is

lacking. Perusing tables 4-1 through 4-4 finds almost no

support for the hypothesis.

Testing for Commonality Between
Federal, State and County Officials

The assumption is that federal and state responses will

be more similar than either those from federal and county, or

from state and county. This is due to the fact that question-

naires were sent to federal and state individuals who work

with fire as a profession, while county respondents represent

individuals from a wide range of professions.

Concerning who is responsible for WUI problems, there are

several levels of quality in the analysis. In three instances

there is a statistical difference revealed by the SNK proce-

dure, between the county responses and those of the other

levels of government. In five others there are similarities,

although those differences are not statistically significant.

Therefore, the hypothesis is supported by these responses. In

only two other variables, neither relating to any wildfire

activities, was there a statistical difference. In both

cases, state respondents saw the problem as less important

than individuals at other levels of government. In the other

variables, responses showed little difference.

On the follow-up open-ended query concerning the knowl-

edge of other WUI problems, Chi-square tests indicate that

there is a difference between county responses and others.

Recall from the analysis of issues for the first objective

that county responses are more varied than others. Now it is

revealed that not only are they more varied, but there are


also fewer offerings. Once again, this probably reflects the

wider job categories of county officials. It may also reflect

the wide range of ages, education, and experience within this


The issue of who should be responsible for various

problems in the WUI provides no support for the hypothesis

that individuals working at the state and federal level will

respond in a similar manner that is different from county


When interviewees were asked about the past occurrence of

natural hazards in their jurisdiction there once again is

little support for the hypothesis on most hazards. However,

on two, droughts and wildfires--two hazards that frequently

occur together and are central to this study--there is support

for the hypothesis. On both of these issues county officials

reported fewer occurrences than either federal or state

respondents. This is almost certainly due to the broader

range of problems that are dealt with at the county level.

Looking back, wildfires would not stand out from other

problems for county officials like they would for individuals

(like those who were interviewed from state and federal

government agencies) who are much more intensively involved in

wildfire issues.

Probing further on the same issue, interviewees were

asked to rate the probability of the same natural hazards

occurring in the next ten years. The same two hazards,


wildfire and drought, arise to prominence with all three

groups. But county officials believe the likelihood of an

occurrence in the next ten years to be less than their

counterparts in the other levels of government. Clearly

specific hazards do not stand out in the minds of county

officials like they do with their resource oriented counter-


When looking at the impact of wildfire hazard mitigation

measures over the long run, county officials were much more

likely to see these measures as causing problems in their

jurisdiction. The strong support for the hypothesis here is

not a surprise. County officials are much more likely to view

the "big picture" and not just the WUI picture. Especially

when counties are chronically short of operating capital,

anything that might threaten economic development in the

county will be viewed nervously by elected and appointed

county officials.

On three philosophical issues; one suggesting that

property owners should be left to their own devices to protect

themselves; one suggesting that insurance should be made

mandatory for WUI homeowners and then let the market set the

value; and one suggesting stringent government controls over

design and construction, the significant differences did not

support this hypothesis. Generally federal respondents were

the most liberal, state officials the most conservative,

leaving those who worked for the counties in the middle.


Individuals were asked to indicate the position of

various players on this issue and there are two ways of

reviewing the responses. One criterium could be simply the

knowledge of the position held by groups and individuals on

this issue. Forty-five percent of the time county officials

marked "Don't Know", more than the 39% of the time that state

officials did, but less than the 48% of federal respondents.

Obviously using this criterium, there is little difference in

the responses. The other criterium involves whether the

individual was involved in the issue or not. Ninety-four

percent of federal officials were involved, 96% of their state

peers, but only 76% of those at the county level. This

supports the hypothesis, and that support is even more

strongly stressed as 18% of the county officials failed to

respond, a number far greater than federal (1%) and state

(2%). One of the two criteria supports the hypothesis.

As can be gathered from Table 4-5 there is strong support

for hypothesis # 2 five times (29%), weak support twice (12%),

no support five times (29%) and no agreement between groups

three times (18%). There is more support in the data for

hypothesis # 2 than there is for hypothesis # 1, but it is not

unqualified support.

Searching for Individual Differences

The assumption that individual federal decision makers

have considerably more experience, are the most knowledgeable,

and have the greatest interest in the adoption of mitigation

measures, with less exhibited at the state level and least

from county officials was supported in some instances.

When asked whether they have lived in a home that was

vulnerable to wildfire, federal respondents answered affirma-

tively more than either state or county,

indicating some

support for the hypothesis.

Table 4-5
Support for Hypothesis #
Number Federal*

2, Common Questions




1 Agree Agree Disagree
2a Agree Agree Disagree
3 Wk Agree Wk Agree Wk Disagr
4a & 4c Agree Agree Disagree
8a & 8b Agree Agree Disagree
8g Agree Disagree Agree
8 Other No Agreement
5 No Agreement
6 Disagree Disagree Disagree
7a No Agreement
28a Agree Agree Disagree
F18,S22,C29 Agree Disagree Agree
F19,S23,C30 Agree Disagree Agree
F21,S25, Weak Weak Weak
C26a Agree Agree Disagree
Consistency of agreement.





However, on the follow-up the situation changed, with state

respondents having suffered the most, as 30% indicated


personal loss. Once again there is partial support for the

hypothesis. It makes one wonder if more individuals at the

federal level reported having lived in a wildfire vulnerable

area because they are mostly foresters, who perhaps see their

environment as being more threatening than others might view

the same scene. Truly the query concerning actual loss rather

than conjecture is the best indicator of personal threat from


Gross involvement in the issue can be deduced from

looking at the length of time an individual has held the same

position. State officials have held their positions slightly

longer than their federal counterparts, while county respon-

dents had held their positions an average of 27% less time

than their state counterparts and 25% less than federal. The

hypothesis is partially supported here, with state and federal

individuals both having held their jobs longer than county


Probing the issue further and requesting what percentage

of their time is allocated to WUI problems, state individuals

indicated that they spend by far the most time, nearly 50%.

Wildfire issues consumed 18% of federal officials' time,

followed by their county peers at 12%. The hypothesis is

supported partially in that both federal and state officials

dedicate more time to this issue than do those working for the

county. However, state employees spend far more time than

federal respondents. It surfaces once again that the state


officials interviewed for this survey are the least diverse of

any of the groups. They are foresters and fire fighters a

majority of their time and their attitudes and responses

repeatedly reflect that narrow focus.

At this point community involvement was investigated.

This inclusion under objective # 3 may be debatable, but it

remains because the results are so consistent. In all the

following categories, including "Elected Office," "Appointed

Department Head," Elected Civic Organization Officer," Elected

Trade Union Officer," and "Elected Business Association

Officer," a much higher percentage of county respondents have

been involved. In all of the above categories state employees

have had more experience than their federal counterparts,

although not at a statistically significant level. Only in

the category of "Elected Conservation Organization Officer" do

state respondents lead the way. In this case the situation

shows them to have the most experience, followed by federal

respondents and finally county people. However, the differ-

ences are slight.

These responses do not support the hypothesis at all.

What they reveal, is that county employees are more closely

connected with the community than either their state or

federal counterparts. County responses in the survey consis-

tently indicate local involvement.

When interviewees were asked to indicate what they

considered to have been their major or predominant job or


occupation their responses support the hypothesis in that 46%

of the federal respondents indicated that their careers had

been in either fire management or fire suppression. Forty-two

percent of state people reported the same, but only 18% of

county employees indicated fire as their career.

This is another clear indicator of the difference in

perspective between federal, state, and local officials on

this issue. Individuals working in the two higher levels of

government spend almost half of their time living fire

problems, while county officials average less than one day

each week.

When education levels of the three groups is viewed from

a broad perspective, federal and state officials are nearly

equal, but both are significantly higher than the level of

county respondents. However, when this information is perused

carefully, it is found that 20% of county officials hold a

masters degree, which is much higher than individuals from

either of the other two levels of government (federal=12%;

state=6%) The county responses present a tremendously more

varied work force than either of the others, even including

three individuals with law degrees. This situation must

indicate a much broader range of views on any issue that

arises. The hypothesis is partially supported, with federal

and state officials being, on average, better educated than

county people, but the first two groups show little difference

between them.