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Project ID: 10-1-03-2

Year: 2010

Date Started: 08/01/2010

Date Completed: 03/25/2015

Title: Public Perceptions of Smoke: Contrasting Tolerance amongst WUI and Urban Communities in the Interior West and the Southeastern United States

Project Proposal Abstract: Wildland fire managers need information about public tolerance for smoke emissions from prescribed and naturally ignited fires. Understanding the factors that contribute to (in)tolerance will help managers anticipate public responses, communicate effectively, and plan fires that fall within acceptable smoke parameters. This study builds on previous research on public perceptions of fire, smoke, and air quality to develop a theoretical model to predict tolerance. The study expands on previous case study research and regional investigations to compare two high-fire regions of the United States. It responds to the questions outlined in JFSP RFA 2010-1.3 that ask how tolerance is related to length of exposure and concentration of smoke, the source of the smoke/purpose of the fire, and the degree of active fire management. Additionally, it investigates the RFA question related to community preparedness by contrasting wildland-urban interface communities that evidence high levels of fire preparation with those that have not yet prepared. Data will be collected via a mail survey of a random sample of residents from 18 communities (n=200 completed surveys per community) in the inland west and southeast regions. In each region, 3 highly prepared WUI communities (completion of Community Wildland Protection Plans), 3 less prepared WUI communities (no plan), and 3 urban communities will be selected in consultation with fire managers. Mail surveys will follow the Dillman protocol, with follow-up phone interviews to assess non-response tendencies. The questionnaires will present multi-item Likert-type measures of constructs (e.g., personal value orientations, beliefs about the relationship of smoke to environmental health, perceptions of vulnerability to smoke and ability to mitigate those consequences, individual characteristics, and trust in fire managers). Following data reduction (i.e., factor analysis and index construction) these will be related (through path models) to a multi-item measure of smoke tolerance. Additionally, the questionnaire will present scenarios describing combinations of levels of attributes (e.g., duration of exposure, certainty of management control, cost, source of ignition), which they will rate for acceptability. Conjoint analysis of these ratings will reveal the relative importance of attributes and levels. Comparison of findings from the two regions and between WUI and urban communities will provide information about the generalizability of the relationships that are uncovered. Comparison of WUI-prepared and unprepared communities will reveal the extent to which fire planning affects tolerance of smoke, information useful to fire managers working in WUI areas. This study also plans to improve materials for training fire professionals and effective public outreach. To accomplish this, we will develop a stand-alone module for the Rx410 and Technical Fire Management trainings, and results will be incorporated into three courses at the University of Idaho that are taken by current and future fire professionals in residence and on-line. As part of this effort (and for use in the questionnaires), we will develop a smoke photo guide that can be used in public meetings and trainings to depict different levels of smoke. The study builds on several previous and on-going efforts by the project team, including previous development of a smoke photo series for firefighters, a recently funded National Science Foundation grant for Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (which focuses on fire and forest health issues in the northern Rocky Mountains), assessment of NWCG courses, and development of on-line academic courses. Other deliverables include conference presentations, two informational flyers to be distributed to fire professionals, a website, three refereed publications (through a PhD dissertation), and hosting a session on smoke at a relevant professional meeting.

Principal Investigator: Troy E. Hall

Agency/Organization: University of Idaho

Branch or Dept: Department of Conservation Social Sciences

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Co-Principal Investigator

Penny Morgan

University of Idaho

Department of Forest Resources

Co-Principal Investigator

Alistair M. Smith

University of Idaho

Department of Forest Resources

Federal Cooperator

Roger D. Ottmar

Forest Service

PNW-Seattle-Managing Natural Disturbances

Federal Fiscal Representative

Rebecca A. Slick

Forest Service

PNW-Pacific Northwest Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network













Interior West


Project Deliverables

Final Report view or print

("Results presented in JFSP Final Reports may not have been peer-reviewed and should be interpreted as tentative until published in a peer-reviewed source.")

  ID Type Title
view or print   1788 Government Publication Public Perceptions and Tolerance of Smoke: Smoke Management Guide for Prescribed and Wildland Fire
view or print   3552 Journal Article Canadian Journal of Forest Research
  go to website 7584 Training Session Smoke Perceptions Training Module - Values Beliefs Attitudes and Tolerance
  go to website 7585 Final Report Supplement Public Perceptions of Smoke - Supplemental Review
  go to website 7595 Training Session Smoke Perceptions Training Module - Individual and Community Characteristics
  go to website 7596 Training Session Smoke Perceptions Training Module - Agency Trust and Advanced Warning
view or print   7310 Final Report Supplement Smoke Management Photographic Guide: Visual Aid for Communicating Smoke Impacts
  go to website 7582 Website Public Perceptions and Tolerance of Smoke from Wildland Fires Portal
  go to website 7583 Training Session Smoke Perceptions Training Module - Why Public Perception Matters

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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