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A Public Education Campaign to Complement Smokeys Message of Fire Safety: Partners in Fire Education

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Title: A Public Education Campaign to Complement Smokeys Message of Fire Safety: Partners in Fire Education


1
A Public Education Campaign to Complement
Smokeys Message of Fire Safety Partners in
Fire Education
Partners in Fire Education The Language of
Fire The results of polling data and information
contained in this power point should not be
considered as federal policy and solely reflects
the opinion of the authors.
2
From the Beginning….Goal 3A Task 2
2) Further develop and implement a public
education campaign, such as the National Wildland
Fire Coordinating Group (NWCG) Wildland Fire A
Natural Process, to complement Smokey Bears
message of fire safety. The campaign will
emphasize fires natural role in ecosystems and
the benefits of fire management to ecosystems and
public health and safety
3
Partners In Fire Education
4
Partners in Fire Education
Public Opinion Research
LORI WEIGEL
DAVID METZ

5
Methodology
An explanation of what we did and how we did it
6
Methodology
  • Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin,
    Maullin Associates are pleased to present these
    key findings from qualitative and quantitative
    national research regarding Americans views of
    fire. In consultation with the Research
    Subcommittee and the consulting team, we used two
    forms of research to provide a solid foundation
    for the communications effort being undertaken by
    PIFE.
  • It is important to remember that these two firms
    represent a bipartisan research team with
    extensive collaborative experience conducting
    research on conservation issues. Public Opinion
    Strategies (Republican) and Fairbank, Maslin,
    Maullin Associates (Democratic) bring a
    bipartisan approach to conducting and presenting
    this research to ensure that this data will have
    the highest level of credibility with
    policymakers on both sides of the aisle.

7
Methodology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Three sets of focus groups among homeowners in
    the suburbs of major metropolitan areas, and in
    smaller outlying communities. The goal of the
    groups was to refine language and messages, and
    to inform the content of the survey. The groups
    were held in the following locations
  • The western suburbs of Denver metro area
    represented a community which had experienced a
    fire in their metropolitan area sometime in a
    range of 3-6 years ago

8
Methodology
  • Bend, Oregon, and surrounding outlying areas was
    selected to represent a community which has
    experienced a fire in their metropolitan area in
    the last one to two years.
  • 3) Jacksonville, Florida, was selected to
    represent a community which could experience fire
    in their metropolitan area but has not had a
    direct experience in the last ten or more years.

9
Methodology
  • One group in each location consisted of home
    owners who reside in relatively closer in
    suburbs, and/or farther from large, undeveloped
    natural areas so that they are not as likely to
    be personally affected by fire but might see
    smoke for example and
  • The other group consisted of home owners who
    reside in outer suburban/exurban or even rural
    areas (depending on the site). These home owners
    are residing in areas that would likely be
    considered as WUI.
  • As qualitative research cannot be projected to
    the greater population, this phrase of research
    was followed by quantitative research.

10
Methodology
  • Quantitative Research, or Survey
  • Keep in mind surveys are a systematic,
    scientific, and impartial way of collecting
    information for a subset, or sample, of people
    that is used to generalize to a greater group, or
    population, from which the sample was drawn.
  • Telephone interviews were conducted among adults
    across several populations

11
Methodology
  • 800 adults interviewed nationwide proportional by
    population
  • 400 adults in selected fire-prone forest
    counties in the Southeast and West
  • 400 adults in selected fire prone shrub and
    grasslands counties in the Midwest and Mountain
    states
  • 400 adults in Southern California (Imperial, Los
    Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San
    Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties)
  • The margin of error associated with the national
    sample is - 3.46, and that for each oversample
    is - 4.9. The margin of error for sub-groups
    examined in this analysis varies by cell size.

12
The counties for the oversamples were selected by
the Research subcommittee using the following
rationale
FOREST To select high fire risk counties in the
West, we used data from the Headwater Economic
study Home Development on Fire-Prone Lands
West-Wide Summary. The study identified counties
with high current development and future
development potential on lands adjacent to
fire-prone public lands. For our sample, we
selected counties with at least 20 acres of large
areas of developed forested private lands
adjacent to the fire-prone public lands. To
select high fire risk counties in the Southeast,
we used data for the Southern Wildfire Risk
Assessment (SWRA). We selected counties using
their Level of Concern (LOC) rating. LOC is
calculated as the Wildland Fire Susceptibility
Index (WFSI) times the Fire Effects Index (FEI).
SWRA uses districts instead of county boundaries
so we identified districts with at least 50,000
acres with LOC 0.64-1.36 and at least 100 acres
with LOC 14.9-100 and then selected the counties
within those districts. In both the west and the
southeast, we removed counties with large cities
(pop. gt150,000).
13
SHRUB-GRASSLANDS To select high fire risk
counties in shrub and grassland areas, we started
by examining the Landfire National data. While
this data did help to narrow down focal areas
within states, the data was either too course or
did not completely cover grassland areas to be
reliable for selection of the final counties.
With the focal areas identified, we turned to on
the ground fire and conservation professionals.
We asked this group to name five or fewer
counties in the focal areas that they are
familiar with that meet the follow criteria all
or predominantly grass lands or shrub lands
rural with no cities or towns over 50,000 high
natural fire ignition.
14
Research Goals
The goals for the research were many but can be
collectively considered under two umbrella goals
1
Establish a baseline of public attitudes toward
fire and Craft language and messages that when
communicated broadly are compelling rationales
and increase acceptance for the ecological role
of fire.
2
These goals were refined from the initial RFP
request to craft universal messages and a
customized, strategic communications plan that
gives the Partners the tools, expertise and
materials necessary to develop a national public
education campaign.
15
Communications
Communications must meet people where they are on
an issue. So, where are Americans in this
conversation about fire?
16
Where is the public regarding fire?
1
The public is more sophisticated in its
understanding of the fire story than might have
been anticipated at the outset of this project.
17
There is a strong recognition that some fires can
be beneficial.
Agree that Some fires in natural areas are
beneficial.
88
80
76
76
52 Strongly
43 Strongly
42 Strongly
40 Strongly
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern California
18
To a lesser extent, a majority of Americans also
believe that a history of fire suppression has
led to more destructive, large fires.
Agree that putting out all fires in natural
areas can create conditions that will make later
fires burn faster, hotter and more out of
control.
62
62
61
61
37 Strongly
34 Strongly
32 Strongly
31 Strongly
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern California
19
In Their Own Words
People may get some of the specifics and science
muddled, but many people have clearly caught on
to the story of fire. Wildfires are a
naturally occurring phenomenon…. And from what I
understand, that, in the forest, there may be a
certain amount of natural selection and things
that occur that are positive things that come out
of wildfires. The underbrush being killed and the
pine, I guess the cones floating into new
seedlings, which plant even a denser forest,
which may be healthier than the forest that
existed. Jacksonville man Just new growth
that comes after the fire, like Ponderosas need
fire to reproduce, and theyre beautiful trees.
Bend It is natures way of cleansing the
environment, cleaning up the underbrush and
reinvigorating, rejuvenating. Denver
20
There is a gender gap across the data on these
fundamental views of fire.
Agree
Fire Beneficial
Putting Out All Fires Bad
92
85
85
81
78
75
74
71
70
69
65
63
60
57
55
54
Men
Men
Men
Men
Men
Men
Men
Men
Women
Women
Women
Women
Women
Women
Women
Women
National
Forest
Grasslands
National
Forest
Grasslands
21
Acceptance of these views tends to increase with
the education level of the respondent.
By Education Agree
Fire Beneficial
Putting Out All Fires Bad
83
72
68
68
58
54
HS or Less
Some College
College or More
HS or Less
Some College
College or More
(28)
(27)
(45)
(28)
(27)
(45)
22
Where is the public regarding fire?
2
Fire Danger for many
Fire still has a strongly emotional context that
must be recognized in the communication effort.
This may mean a greater resistance with some
audiences.
23
Focus group respondents use the following words
to describe what emotions they feel when thinking
about fire
  • Sadness (death…firefighters dying)
  • Panicky
  • Cautious
  • Devastated
  • Bewildered
  • Shocked
  • Skeptical (is someone keeping an
  • eye on it?)

24
In the focus groups, we conducted an exercise to
gauge the emotions elicited by fire. Respondents
were given hypothetical scenarios where they
learned fire was present in their community and
asked to choose a photo that best represented
their emotional response.
25
Concern or outright fear is the primary emotion
when respondents consider a scenario where they
see smoke and hear fire is 20 miles from their
home.
26
Why? Respondents in the focus groups tell us
that fire is unpredictable. The definition of
too close for comfort could depend on…
  • Time of year
  • (summer/dry season v winter/wet season)
  • Type of area or type of trees
  • (wetland v canyon)
  • The condition of the trees
  • (beetle kill v healthy)
  • Other fires in the area and
  • Weather conditions (wind).

27
We had the opportunity to ask a question one of
the PIFE partners had asked in 2004, in order to
evaluate whether fundamental views of fire had
changed in the last four years.
Forest fires are a part of nature. We need to
protect communities from fires, but in remote
areas we should let fires burn and let nature
take its course.
Natural
Forest fires are unpredictable and dangerous. We
need to contain and extinguish fires as soon as
they are discovered.
Dangerous
28
There is only a slight shift in attitudes.
2004 2008
Natural
40
44
Dangerous
56
53
29
This view is very consistent across the different
geographic audiences interviewed.
Fire Statements By Oversample Region
56
53
50
49
48
46
44
41
Dangerous
Dangerous
Dangerous
Natural
Natural
Natural
Dangerous
Natural
SE Forest
West Forest
Grasslands
Southern
California
Now, let me read you a pair of statements and
please tell me which one comes closer to your own
view.
30
There is a massive gender distinction in the view
of fire and its implications.
60
51
45
38
Dangerous
Dangerous
Natural
Natural
Men
Women
(48)
(52)
Now, let me read you a pair of statements and
please tell me which one comes closer to your own
view.
31
This gender distinction is evident across all the
data. IT IS NOT UNUSUAL. Women tend to be
much more risk averse a truth evidenced in
dozens of research projects we have conducted on
health and safety issues. The safe position
here is to simply extinguish fires.
32
And again, education level plays an important
role.
Fire Statements By Education Level
65
56
54
44
39
33
Dangerous
Dangerous
Dangerous
Natural
Natural
Natural
HS or Less
Some College
College or More
(28)
(27)
(45)
Now, let me read you a pair of statements and
please tell me which one comes closer to your own
view.
33
While areas of the country DO correlate to views
in this specific question…
Natural 46 Dangerous 50
Natural 27 Dangerous 71
Natural 48 Dangerous 52
Natural 39 Dangerous 55
Natural 48 Dangerous 49
Natural 42 Dangerous 55
Natural 46 Dangerous 52
Natural 51 Dangerous 45
34
There is significantly less correlation to how
near or far the public perceives themselves to
live in relation to large, undeveloped natural
areas.
Fire Statements By Distance To Undeveloped Areas
55
54
50
46
43
41
Dangerous
Dangerous
Dangerous
Natural
Natural
Natural
Less Than 1 Mile
5 Miles or Less
6 Miles
(29)
(55)
(44)
Now, let me read you a pair of statements and
please tell me which one comes closer to your own
view.
35
This lack of distinction based on proximity to
natural areas is true throughout the data. While
we recognize that there are legal definitions to
WUI and specific scientific characteristics
that determine fire prone areas, to some extent
WUI or a fire prone area becomes a
self-perception. It means that targeting WUI
people during a public education campaign is
practically impossible. You may think of
yourself as WUI but your neighbor may not!
36
Where is the public regarding fire?
3
There is a perception that fire danger is worse.
Not surprisingly, Southern California is
somewhat different on this and other personal
aspects of fire.
37
There is an increasing perception that fires are
getting worse.

2004
2008
56
48
44
38
6
4
Worse Than 5 Years Ago
Not As Bad As 5 Years Ago
About the Same
Do you think forest fires in this country are
worse than they were 5 years ago, not as bad as 5
years
ago, or about the same?
38
Notably, there is some distinction between
peoples perceptions of wild fires and forest
fires.
National Comparison

Forest Fires
Wild Fires
56
51
5
5
4
3
Worse Than 5 Years Ago
Not As Bad As 5 Years Ago
About the Same
Do you think forest/wild fires in this country
are worse than they were 5 years ago, not as bad
as 5
years ago, or about the same?
39
This is especially true in Southern California.
Southern California Comparison

Forest Fires
Wild Fires
62
53
41
33
5
3
Worse Than 5 Years Ago
Not As Bad As 5 Years Ago
About the Same
Do you think forest/wild fires in this country
are worse than they were 5 years ago, not as bad
as 5
years ago, or about the same?
40
In fact, Southern California is REALLY different
than almost anywhere else on the planet when it
comes to perceptions of how serious a problem is
fire.
Extremely/Very/Somewhat a Problem
National
Southern California
Difference
36
Smoke 34
Smoke 70
33
Destructive Wildfires 39

Destructive Wildfires 72

21
Fire Management 40



Fire Management 61



41
In addition, Southern Californians are much more
likely to say they have been evacuated from fires
and to say they worry more about fires today.
52
46
27
24
16
4
National
Southern
National
Southern
National
Southern
California
California
California
42
Residents of Southern California are most likely
to recognize a risk from fire than those
elsewhere.
I personally am worried that my own property
faces serious risks from wild fires.
26
23
12
11
National
Forest
Grasslands
Now I would like to read you a few statements
about fires in natural areas. For each one,
please tell me if
you agree or disagree with that statement
43
Where is the public regarding fire?
However, in the grand scheme of things, fire
tends to be a more minor concern than other
conservation issues.
4
44
Fire ranks below a number of other conservation
issues as a concern in ones local area.
Ranked by Extremely/Very Serious Problem
68
40
Global warming
61
28
Loss of habitat for fish and wildlife
65
27
Poorly-planned growth and development
55
26
Loss of forest land
56
Insects and diseases that kill trees
22
Uncontrollable wildfires that destroy property
39
21
and forests
40
20
Fire management in forests and public lands
42
Too much logging of forests
18
34
16
Smoke from fires in natural areas
Extremely/Very Serious
Total Serious
I am going to read you a list of issues, and I'd
like you to tell me how serious a problem you
think each
one is in your area. After I read each one,
please tell me if you think it is an extremely
serious problem,
a very serious problem, a somewhat serious
problem, or not a serious problem in your area.
45
Support for a Proactive Approach to Fire
How Americans fundamental views of fire
impact their acceptance of various practices and
approaches
46
We tested four approaches to fire to gauge public
support for each one.
Government agencies, conservation organizations
and private industry are considering using
certain approaches to handling fires in natural
areas in order to help prevent large, severe
fires and restore forests and other natural areas
to balanced health.
47
There is strong support for approaches that focus
group respondents deemed as pro-active steps
Allow fire teams to use controlled burns when and
where doing so will safely reduce the amount of
fuel for fires.
Strongly Support
Total Support
52
90
Strongly Support
Total Support
Cut and remove overgrown brush and trees in
natural areas that acts as fuel for fires.
51
79
48
There is majority support for allowing some fires
to take their natural course.
Allow naturally started fires that do not
threaten homes, people or the health of that
natural area to take their natural course, rather
than putting the fire out.
Strongly Support
Total Support
31
62
49
Even before we introduced this concept, many in
the focus groups had explained the underlying
rationale for doing so.
Well it depends if its going to be a
destructive area, I think there needs to be some
guidelines as to where and if it gets out of
control what will it affect, that type of thing.
And, again, erosion was a big thing up there at
the Hayman Fire. You know, we have to consider
those things as well. Are we going to be more
destructive to the land if we dont burn?
Denver metro area woman At some point, we made
a decision. Were not going to touch the
forests. That was wrong because it led to all
the beetle kill up at McKenzie Pass. And then at
some point, we swung the other way and said,
well, were just going to fight everything, which
was just as bad because it took too much money.
Now were actually going in and trying to say,
okay, some fires were going to fight, others
were just going to let go, and were going to
try to manage certain areas of them that major
fires dont start, or it can be more easily
controlled. Bend man
50
This dynamic is the same across the targeted
geographic areas, where we see a great deal of
consistency.
51
Again, the two key dynamics of gender and
education level are evident in the reaction to
allowing some fires to take their natural course.
70
67
61
57
51
Men
Women
HS or Less
Some College
College or More
(48)
(52)
(28)
(27)
(45)
I am going to read you a list of these
approaches. For each one, please tell me if you
support or oppose
that specific approach to fire being used in your
state.
52
The language for these approaches to fire was
carefully constructed and is critically important
to note.
  • So for example, mechanical thinning is
    described in everyday terms which people can
    understand cut and remove overgrown brush and
    trees.
  • Secondly, a rationale for this
  • action is made explicit since
  • it explains that this overgrowth
  • can act as fuel for fires.

53
The language for controlled burns was carefully
tested in the focus groups.
Allow fire teams to use controlled burns when and
where
doing so will safely reduce the amount of fuel
for fires.
Fire teams A team of people forest experts,
fire fighters, and even perhaps weather experts
are considered optimal to decide when and where
fires can be conducted safely. They do NOT want
an individual to make this decision alone.
Burn seen as smaller, less wild and more able
to be controlled than a fire.
When and where Focus group respondents saw many
variables as potentially leading to out of
control fires and want many factors considered.
Safely always reassuring that safety is first
and foremost in mind is critical.
54
Clearly, the word burn holds more positive
connotations of CONTROL for people than does the
word fire.
I think burn is a better word, because I think
fire makes me think, Oh, my God, how close is it
to my house? you know? Bend man When you
burn something, youre doing it on purpose, and
fire seems something that, to me, seems like, oh,
wow, this happened, and it wasnt planned, I
guess. Denver woman. A burn has sort of a
more controlled sort of feel to it to me, whereas
fire, oh, fire, fire. Denver man
55
The other critical word used in this description
is controlled. While focus group respondents
understood that no one could absolutely control
fire, this did not mean that they didnt want
those in charge to TRY and control fire. In
fact, they reject many words which were seen as
too lackadaisical.
Phrase
Reaction
Monitored
Too lackadaisical
Too bureaucratic/ not active enough
Supervised
Sounds like getting a shot
Preventative
Planned
But did it happen
Not unique to this technique
Regenerative
56
Instead, two key phrases rise to the top
controlled and managed due to the picture of
active, engaged professionals who are in control
of the fire.
58
57
54
52
23
10
8
Controlled
Managed
Proactive
Prescribed
Forest
Grassland
Southern
Burn
Burn
Burn
Burn
California
And, there are a number of terms used to describe
the practice of setting small, intentional fires
when
doing so will safely reduce the amount of fuel
that might lead to a dangerous wildfire in the
future.
Which ONE would give you a more favorable
impression if you heard your state's forest
experts and
fire fighters were going to use.
57
People simply want to feel taken care of when it
comes to fire to know someone is in charge and
vigilant. With the term prescribed they
questioned whether they were getting the right
medicine.
You know, when I look at those words,
controlled and managed, theyre also words
that you see in your hierarchy of status in
employment… and I think you look at that as a
situation being taken care of. Bend woman
58
The support for the fourth of these approaches to
fire elicits a corresponding desire to direct
resources in an appropriate manner.
Support Shift some existing government funds
from putting out practically all fires to
pro-actively cutting and removing overgrown brush
and trees and using controlled burns to reduce
the amount of fuel for future fires.
85
84
81
81
48 Strongly
47 Strongly
44 Strongly
44 Strongly
National
Forest
Grassland
Southern
California
59
One caveat It is important to note that this
fourth approach was worded in a manner that
implies revenue neutrality existing government
funds Rather than an increase in funds which
might elicit lower support levels.
60
Again the four pro-active steps are also seen
as being the most effective approaches to
preventing large, severe fires.
Ranked by Very Effective
Allow fire teams to use controlled burns when
93
and where doing so will safely reduce the amount
48
of fuel for fires.
Cut and remove overgrown brush and trees in
88
48
natural areas that acts as fuel for fires.
Shift some existing government funds from
putting out practically all fires to pro-actively
cutting and removing overgrown brush and trees
75
38
and using controlled burns to reduce the amount
of fuel for future fires.
Allow naturally started fires that do not
threaten homes, people or the health of that
72
33
natural area to take their natural course, rather
than putting the fire out.
Very Effective
Total Effective
I am going to read you this same list of
approaches again, but this time, please tell me
how effective you
believe that action would be to help prevent
large, severe fires, do you think it would be.
61
When viewing these four approaches as a package,
most are divided over whether this is a step in
the right direction or whether to withhold
judgment until they hear more.
55
54
51
49
48
45
44
42
4
3
2
2
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern California
Right Direction
Wrong Track
Don't Know
And thinking about these four approaches as a
package, would you say they are a step in the
right
direction or off on the wrong track, or do you
not feel you know enough to say one way or the
other?
62
Notably, one additional approach to alleviating
fire problems was also tested.
And thinking about one more potential approach
which could be taken
Place limits on where and how homes can be built
which are in or near large undeveloped natural
areas and forests where periodic fires occur.
63
There is a strong sense that some limits on
building in the WUI would be an effective
approach to fire.
Place limits on where and how homes can be built
which are in or near large undeveloped natural
areas and forests where periodic fires occur.
Effective
82
80
78
74
55 Very
52 Very
48 Very
48 Very
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern
California
64
People definitely believe that more and more
homes being built in the forest is a problem.
But in reality, this is a societal and economic
issue that this effort may not be able to tackle.
People want to build their homes further and
further out in the forest. And the risk of doing
that is most of the time, its wonderful. But
then when the fire comes roaring through, your
million-dollar house, whatever, is going to go up
like that. And the more areas where, you know,
people want to live like here (Bend) or Colorado,
you know, if you live out to the forest, and the
lightning strikes come in summer, you could lose
it all. Bend woman
65
Messages
How to more effectively communicate on this issue
66
What We Did
  • We tested ten statements and respondents were
    asked to tell us how convincing each one was as a
    reason to support the package of approaches to
    fire.
  • There is an incredible amount of consistency in
    reaction to these statements across the four
    distinct geographic zones.

67
Lesson 1 Reassure people that the safety of
the public, fire fighters and property is a
priority.
Safety is always the number one priority when it
comes to fire. But, by putting out every single
fire, we are actually creating more dangerous
conditions. Using controlled burns to thin out
overgrowth and carefully managing natural fires
helps ensure the safety of neighborhoods in
outlying areas.
Very Convincing
43
68
Lesson 2 Do not ignore the human element.
Most of the top tier messages on how these
approaches to fire affect people.
Taxpayer money is being wasted putting out fires
that are far from people and their property. A
far more cost-effective approach is to use
controlled burns to prevent large, severe fires
from spreading into areas where people live, and
to allow some fires to take their natural course,
which costs five times less than trying to put
out fires.
Very Convincing
41
Very Convincing
Forests and natural areas are important to our
health - they act as natural filters to give us
clean air, and are the source of our clean
drinking water. We must ensure the health of our
forests and natural areas by allowing some fires
to take their natural course.
40
69
It is natural that people are often scared of
fire and do not want to risk damage to their
homes. But, some fires are inevitable and
appropriate, and pro-actively using fire as a
tool could help prevent the out of control fires
that destroy homes and endanger fire fighter.
Very Convincing
36
Fires are important to the health and balance of
our natural areas. In order to protect and
preserve our forests, grasslands, canyons, and
valleys for future generations, we need to allow
fire to play a role in nature, while we carefully
manage the ways in which nature can take its
course.
Very Convincing
35
70
Lesson 3 People do value the health of natural
areas, particularly those near them
or in iconic places.
Very Convincing
We know that allowing fire to take its natural
course can help the health of our forests and
natural areas. For example, the fires in
Yellowstone in 1988 showed how natural areas can
quickly bounce back rejuvenated with even more
wildlife and types of plants than ever before.
45
Very Convincing
Many types of plants and wildlife need fire to
survive. Periodic fire stimulates growth,
reproduction of plants, provides wildlife
habitat, and ensures healthier natural areas near
us.
40
71
Both of these messages refer to the health of
these areas and, in fact, the survey demonstrates
that the public sees forest health as
deteriorating.
View of Forests Worse
60
58
57
50
26 Much
Worse
21 Much
Worse
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern
California
In general, over the past ten years or so do you
think the overall condition of America's forests
has gotten
better, stayed the same, or gotten worse?
72
Notably, the Yellowstone example was very
top-of-mind for many focus group respondents and
this message was crafted specifically from how
they spoke about this aspect of the issue.
I like the planned fires, naturally able to
restore, balanced health, and assure the cycle of
life…. I wouldnt have felt that way if I hadnt
gone up to Yellowstone and seen it two years, I
think it was about a year and a half after the
fire. And it was unbelievable. It helped all of
the wildlife, the ones who didnt die, of course.
But there was a lot more grazing for the buffalo
and the elk and the deer. Its, it does renew,
and I was just amazed at how green everything
was. It was gorgeous. Denver woman commenting
on why she had a positive opinion of controlled
burns
73
Interestingly, nearly all of the messages
resonate more strongly among grasslands
respondents.
74
National
Grassland
D/S
45
49
4
Yellowstone
43
54
11
Safety
41
44
3
Taxpayer money wasted
40
45
5
Important to our health
Need fire to survive
40
48
8
Inevitable and appropriate
36
41
5
Health and balance
35
45
10
75
The top 3 messages by key fire regions
Forest
Grassland
Southern CA
Yellowstone (45 Very Convincing)
1
Safety (54 Very Convincing)
Yellowstone (45 Very Convincing)
Safety (44 Very Convincing)
Yellowstone (49 Very Convincing)
Safety (44 Very Convincing)
2
Need fire to survive (41
Very Convincing)
Need fire to survive (48 Very
Convincing)
3
Taxpayer money (42 Very
Convincing)
76
Focusing on the natural aspect of fire is not
nearly as effective.
Fire is an essential process for long-term forest
health. It is simply a part of our environment,
as natural as rain or sunshine. Allowing more
fires to take their natural course will
regenerate and ultimately protect the natural
areas we live near, visit and love.
Very Convincing
29
Fire is much like the forests immune system - it
sweeps in to clear out potentially cancerous
growth that threatens to sicken or kill it.
Allowing more fires to take their natural course
will regenerate the natural areas that are so
important to our communities and our way of
life.
Very Convincing
30
77
Focusing on the natural aspect of fire is not
nearly as effective.
Fire has helped shape our natural areas for
thousands of years. In fact, most of the land in
the United States would have a fire at least
every 35 years if nature was allowed to take its
course. We should use fire to our advantage - as
a natural way to thin forests and protect
surrounding communities from catastrophic
fires.
Very Convincing
30
78
And these messages that focus exclusively on the
fires impact on natural areas simply do not
convert those who want to extinguish all
fires.
Messages Very Convincing
Among Only Those Who See Fire As Dangerous
21
19
18
Use Fire
Immune System
Essential for
to Advantage
Forest Health
I am going to read you some statements some
people have given as reasons to support this
package of
approaches to fires. After I read each one,
please tell me whether you find this statement
very convincing,
somewhat convincing, not too convincing, or not
convincing at all as a reason to support putting
these
approaches into action in your state.
79
Overall, the ten messages tested DO move the
needle toward the view that these package of
approaches to fire is a step in the right
direction.
68
66
65
61
35
30
29
26
6
5
4
4
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern California
Right Direction
Wrong Track
Don't Know
Having heard more about these approaches, would
you say they are a step in the right direction
or off on
the wrong track, or do you not feel you know
enough to say one way or the other?
80
The sub-groups which demonstrate the greatest
increase in saying these four approaches are a
step in the right direction
North East Region Women
32
Mid Atlantic Region
30
North East Region
28
Independent Women
27
Small City/Rural Women
26
Women Age 18-54
25
Women Without Degree
24
White Democrats
24
Women
23
Less Than a Mile From WUI
23
Motorized Recreation
23
81
The messages which rate highest among movers
We know that allowing fire to take its natural
course can help the health of our forests and
natural areas. For example, the fires in
Yellowstone in 1988 showed how natural areas can
quickly bounce back rejuvenated with even more
wildlife and types of plants than ever before.
1
Forests and natural areas are important to our
health - they act as natural filters to give us
clean air, and are the source of our clean
drinking water. We must ensure the health of our
forests and natural areas by allowing some fires
to take their natural course.
2
Taxpayer money is being wasted putting out fires
that are far from people and their property. A
far more cost-effective approach is to use
controlled burns to prevent large, severe fires
from spreading into areas where people live, and
to allow some fires to take their natural course,
which costs five times less than trying to put
out fires.
3
82
Still, the fact that a significant proportion
want to withhold judgment on this issue after
hearing more about it (more than any average
citizen ever likely will) is significant and
speaks to the gut level emotional resistance we
may encounter during a campaign.
83
What does NOT work
84
1
Technical Language
  • Every industry and profession
  • tends to have its own vocabulary
  • which is well understood among
  • those professionals, but
  • unfortunately can be off-putting
  • to the general public.
  • Often using more commonplace language can
    immediately create a more compelling and
    persuasive communication.

85
Within the fire community, there are a large
number of terms that are generally not understood
at all by the general public
  • Wildland
  • Wildland urban interface or WUI
  • Appropriate management
  • Response
  • Natural fire regime
  • Altered fire dynamics

This is fine for speaking amongst yourselves, but
a new vocabulary is necessary for communicating
with the public.
86
2
Too much blame on past fire policy
People recognize there is a failed past policy,
but the tone of that recognition needs to be
careful. This language failed in focus groups
Only recently has man tried to mess with Mother
Nature by putting out even naturally occurring
fires.
87
Getting too neutral on fire also does not
connect
3
  • People believe there are GOOD fires generally
    fires that start naturally and do not threaten
    people or homes or devastate the natural area in
    question.
  • Conversely, they say there are BAD fires
    generally those started by man, those which
    threaten lives and property, or those that burn
    so destructively they irreparably harm land or
    water quality.

…to say (fire) is neither good or bad is not
true. It can be really bad, and it can be good.
Bend woman
88
4
Leaving people out of the picture
As previously stated, messaging which seems to
suggest that only wildlife or nature is the
priority can be off-putting to some. One section
of a message which failed
For example, significant numbers of birds called
Kirtland warblers died it is believed because
fires which would have cleared their nesting
sites were instead put out.
89
Focus group respondents reinforce that messaging
which excludes people can backfire (no pun
intended). Witness this exchange in
Bend
WOMAN This message (which does not mention
people) was written by an environmentalist. MODER
ATOR And what tells you that? WOMAN Well, it
was just… more for the aspect of the nature
itself and what was out there, which is
important, Im not discrediting that, but theres
a lot more factors that take precedence over this
first. MAN Well, humans are a part of nature
too.
90
5
Trying to confront the fear factor
There is a clear element of emotion in how people
respond to fire. However, the statements which
attempted to tap into that fear factor were
rejected.
It is natural that people are often scared of
fire and do not want to risk damage to their
homes. We cannot consign our wild areas to a
slow death because we are afraid to let them go
through their natural lifecycles.
91
A tough love approach also creates dramatic
resistance
6
Some of our initial conversations suggested the
desire to convey a tough love message to home
owners whose homes are in fire prone areas.
Essentially, Your home simply may not make it
through the next fire.
92
Intellectually people recognize that fire
fighters may not be able to save every home.
Agree that during large, severe fires near
homes, there are times when fire fighters may
have to let a home burn if no lives are at risk.
89
81
80
79
47 Strongly
43 Strongly
38 Strongly
38 Strongly
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern
California
93
However, this does not mean they dont want
someone to TRY to save every home.
Agree that during large, severe fires near
homes, fire fighters should do everything they
can to try to save all properties.
85
83
82
81
63 Strongly
61 Strongly
59 Strongly
54 Strongly
National
Forest
Grasslands
Southern
California
94
The focus groups reinforce that there is a
disconnect between the pragmatic recognition that
saving all homes is not possible with the emotion
tug of wanting to try.
Every house is my house to somebody, you
know…. I can tell you, if my house was there, I
wouldnt want them to walk away. Denver metro
Or witness this exchange in the other Denver
group
MODERATOR Should we be trying to save every
house or is that realistic? Is that
possible? MAN Its not realistic, but we
should try. WOMAN Yeah, they should
try. WOMAN Well, they do try.
95
Communications that Say We Will Not Try and Save
Homes will FAIL.
Saying all homes cannot be protected may be
intellectually accepted by the public. It may be
the truth.
However, this research suggests that any
communication approach that tries to dissuade
people of the idea that their home will be
protected will be vehemently rejected.
96
Messengers
Who might most effectively convey a message
regarding fire
97
In our experience, people most trust someone they
see as being on the front lines of a problem.
So, for example, when we talk about hospitals,
they want to hear from a nurse.
98
For fire in natural areas, the equivalent is
obviously a fire fighter or agency type (out in
the field NOT in an office!)
Very Believable
Messenger
76
Park Rangers
76
Fire Fighters
Local Fire Fighters
61
59
State Foresters
The U.S. Forest Service
57
99
There is a very interesting nuance being made
among those who have had a direct experience with
fire, with the word local before fire fighters
being a more important distinction.
National Evacuated
Southern California Evacuated
Ranked 1st 6th 1st
3rd
81
79
73
43
Local
Fire Fighters
Local
Fire Fighters
Fire Fighters
Fire Fighters
Cell Size of 4
Next, I'm going to read the names of some people
and organizations that might speak out about
issues
related to fires in natural areas. After each
one, please tell me whether or not you would
consider that
person or organization to be a believable source
of information about fires.
100
Why Are Fire Fighters So Trusted
  • They are on the front lines, unlike
    government people.
  • These are not just any fire fighters. People
    have a very specific image in their mind.

Politicians can spin how a war is going or how
anything is going. But the firefighters, you
believe them because theyre the ones that are
there, who will suffer the consequences if
theyre wrong. Denver metro man
Tired, dirty, wet, exhausted. We had fires here
last year… a lot of our guys were hurt fighting
those fires. Jacksonville
101
Why Are Fire Fighters So Trusted
  • And the public worries a great deal about the
    safety of fire fighters out there on the front
    line.

They put their lives on the line for us, you
know. And theyre out there day in, day out. You
know, like what we had happen up at Glenwood
where the firefighters lost their lives. And
thats sad. Denver metro woman
102
Less likely to be trusted are those who are seen
as not on the front lines of the problem.
Very Believable
Messenger
University Forest Science Professors
41
37
Scientists
University Forest Science Professors
University Forest Science Professors
University Forest Science Professors
University Forest Science Professors
Conservation Organizations
29
Hunters and Fishermen
25
Federal Land Managers
24
103
The response to federal land managers is a good
example of the power of language. In the focus
groups, respondents conveyed that a land
manager is a meaningless phrase that connotes
someone behind a desk to many.
104
Interestingly, in the focus groups, a number of
respondents mention Smokey Bear when they first
think of fire. Some even say his message is
overly simplistic or even outdated, but… DONT
MESS WITH SMOKEY!
105
Most see Smokey Bear as a figure they recall
seeing during Saturday morning cartoons, and
therefore as being directed toward children.
Smokey Bear is conveying a still-powerful message
about playing with fire and being responsible in
the outdoors. They still believe in the
fundamental goal of stopping fires started by
humans.
So at least we could bring the amount of fires
down to where only the ones (being started) are
caused by nature, you know, not carelessness of
humans. Jacksonville woman
106
The Bottom Line
107
The Bottom Line - Overall
  • There is an acceptance in principle of the
    ecological role of fire. Majorities say that fire
    can be beneficial and that the absence of fire
    can lead to dangerous conditions.
  • That being said, Americans are still cautious
    about some uses of fire. They overwhelmingly
    support pro-active approaches, such as controlled
    burns and clearing and removing brush, but are
    more cautious toward allowing some fires away
    from people to take their natural course.

108
The Bottom Line - Forest
  • What is perhaps most striking about those in
    areas in or near forests is how similar they are
    to attitudes of the nation as a whole. While they
    are less urban, closer to natural areas, and
    engage in outdoor recreation to a greater extent,
    most of their core attitudes, acceptance of these
    approaches to fire, and message resonance is
    within margin of error of attitudes nationally.
  • That said, there are distinctions between the
    Southeast and the West, with Western respondents
    more focused on fire as an issue.

109
The Bottom Line - Shrub/Grassland
  • These residents are the most on board with the
    various approaches to fire and find nearly all of
    the messages more compelling than any other
    region.
  • At the same time, they are less personally
    worried about fire and least focused on fire
    affecting their property.
  • In the most rural of any sub-region we examined,
    they dont necessarily think of themselves as
    being WUI or near large undeveloped natural
    areas.

110
The Bottom Line - Southern California
  • Southern California is unique on several levels
    it has by far the highest proportion of the
    public to say they have been evacuated during a
    fire, are most personally worried about fire and
    are most likely to see wildfires and smoke as
    serious problems.
  • Perhaps because of this unique experience with
    fire, they are most likely to trust local fire
    fighters for information about this issue.
  • That said, they are quite similar to the rest of
    the nation in core attitudes toward fire and
    their acceptance of these approaches to fire.

111
Language Cheat Sheet
  • Reassure that safety is the highest priority
    safety of people, homes and fire fighters. Words
    like control and manage resonate on an
    emotional level.
  • Include people in the picture, as the public
    wants to know how this will affect them
    and that their lives and property are not a
    second-tier concern.
  • The most compelling nature-oriented message
    evokes a success story of Yellowstone.
  • Fire fighters and others on the front lines are
    seen as most credible.

112
The Message Triangle A Starting Point
  • Message Triangle
  • Effectiveness with brackets around the phrase
    indicates that a final decision has not been made
    on the use of this term. The term "effectiveness"
    singularly has not yet been tested, "cost
    effectiveness has been tested.
  • The term effectiveness used in the context of
    the triangle would be understood to mean either
    cost effectiveness or management
    effectiveness.
  • Further research is being recommended to identify
    value of effectiveness with the public.

113
Message Triangle Still Under Construction
114
The Language of Fire
115
Messages about Fire Management Outcomes
  • The research indicates greater success in
    communications if outcomes are described using
    this wording
  • Protecting people, property and communities
  • Safeguarding the health and regeneration of
    natural areas
  • Safely managing controlled burns to clear fuels
  • Saving taxpayer money through controlled burns
  • Protecting our air and water by protecting the
    health of forests and natural areas, and giving
    plants and wildlife the exposure to fire they
    need to survive.

116
PIFE Implementation Framework, April 2008 A
Work in Progress
  • Target At-risk communities, focusing on the 49
    still undecided on the benefits of pro-active
    fire management

117
The Language of Fire
  • For more information
  • www.westgov.org/wga/initiatives/
  • fire/index.htm
  • Contact a PIFE partner!
  • The results of polling data and information
    contained in this power point should not be
    considered as federal policy and solely reflects
    the opinion of the authors.
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