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Publication Information

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Title: Social disorder, accidents, and municipal wildfires

Author: Thomas, Douglas S.; Butry, David T.; Prestemon, Jeffrey P.;

Date: 2012


Publication Series: Paper (invited, offered, keynote)

Description: Societal safeguards, established by those who have shared perceptions of the importance of safety and taking preventative measures, reduce the incidence of accidents that harm people and damage property. These safeguards prevent or discourage community members from partaking in careless behaviors that often lead to accidents. Wildland urban interface communities that recognize the importance of safety and taking preventive measures are likely to have a lower rate of accidental wildfire. Research has established a strong link between a positive safety culture and a reduction in accidents. This paper tests whether the lack of societal safeguards results in higher rates of accidental wildfires by modeling unintentional human caused wildfires as a function of constructed ‘Broken Window’ indices. Abandoned buildings and unkempt infrastructure identify areas with social disorder, where individuals are more likely to partake in careless behaviors that result in frequent accidents. The results from this analysis suggest that social collaboration and crime prevention programs as well as wildfire safety programs may be effective tools in preventing accidental wildfire ignitions and damage.

Keywords: accidental fire, broken windows, norms, social disorder, wildfire

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Thomas, Douglas S.; Butry, David T.; Prestemon, Jeffrey P. 2012. Social disorder, accidents, and municipal wildfires. P. 11-27 in Fox, R.L. (ed.), Proceedings of 3rd Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire, April 17 - 19, 2012, Seattle, Washington, USA. International Association of Wildland Fire, Missoula, Montana. 195 pages. (CD-ROM). Available at


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