Wildfire Mitigation Behavior on Residential Properties near Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in Austin, Texas
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Wildfires have become an increasingly important issue in central Texas as more people move to the wildland-urban interface. Although mitigation can reduce the risk of damage from wildfire, not all homeowners choose to mitigate. Using the area surrounding the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve wildlands in Austin, Texas as a case study, this research examined the factors that lead to homeowners’ decisions to or not to mitigate for wildfires. In particular, this study examined the difference between behavioral intention and behavior relating to wildfire mitigation. In addition, this study investigated the spatial aspects of risk perception, behavioral intention, and behavior by testing the effects of proximity to wildlands and to a relatively recent wildfire in the area. Study methods included a mail survey of residents living in subdivisions adjacent to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve wildlands, statistical analysis, and a GIS analysis of residential location in relation to survey responses. This study adopted a modified version of the Theory of Planned Behavior called the “reasoned action approach” as the conceptual framework to explain homeowners’ behaviors and intentions. Statistical analysis was performed on survey responses relating to the conceptual variables in the reasoned action approach. The Intention model indicated that Attitude was the most important variable (40.6 % of total variance) relating to Intention, followed by Subjective Norm (10.1%), and Behavioral Control (1.3%). Risk Perception and Residency explained an additional 2.2% of the total variance. The Behavior models indicated that only Intention and Subjective Norm were predictors for Mitigation Behavior 1 (keeping gutters and roof free of leaves, needles, and branches), only Intention and Behavioral Control were predictors for Mitigation Behavior 2 (keeping tree limbs pruned at least 10 feet from the roof), and only Intention was a predictor for Mitigation Behavior 3 (keeping dead vegetation cleared within 30 feet of the house). The models explained 52.4% of the variance in performance of Mitigation Behavior 1, 38.9% in Mitigation Behavior 2, and 42.2% in Mitigation Behavior 3. The models were better at predicting respondents who did perform mitigation behaviors compared with those who did not. Distance was added to the models to test proximity effects, but this did not improve the predictive power of the models. Visual and hotspot analysis was performed to examine the relationships between proximity and risk perception, proximity and behavioral intention, and proximity and mitigation behavior. Overall, the visual and hot spot analyses did not detect any strong spatial patterns.