Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Jordan W. Smith


Jordan W. Smith


Peter Howe


E. Helen Berry


Darren J. McAvoy


Mark Brunson


Larissa Yocom


Individuals are continuing to move into previously uninhabited, wildlands in the Western United States where fire danger is often high. This continued movement of people is a two-fold problem. First, individuals are moving into areas that have dense forestland and other flammable vegetation types where wildfires can easily ignite and spread. Second, individuals are starting more wildfires in these previously uninhabited areas (over 90% of wildfires across the country are caused by humans). Although wildfire is a complex topic, one thing is simple: As individuals continue to move into these wild, forested, and often mountainous areas, the risk of these individuals experiencing a wildfire or damage to their property or homes will also increase.

This Dissertation has five chapters. The first chapter is an introduction to the important concepts and theory that are used in each of the research chapters. The second chapter presents a review of previous research on how people who live in fire prone areas think about wildfire, and whether they choose to prepare for it. The third and fourth chapters present research I conducted in Colorado (Chapter 3) and Utah (Chapter 4) using unique approaches to try to better understand how individuals’ thoughts and behaviors relate to the physical risk of wildfire damage on their properties and in their community. The final chapter presents the common themes and key lessons learned from the dissertation as a whole; it also highlights some limitations that influenced the work, and ideas for future research on the topic.