A Mixed Logit Model of Homeowner Preferences for Wildfire Hazard Reduction
People living in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) are at greater risk of suffering major losses of property and life from wildfires. Over the past several decades the prevailing view has been that wildfire risk in rural areas was exogenous to the activities of homeowners. In response to catastrophic fires in the WUI over the past few years, recent approaches to fire management and prevention in the WUI have emphasized activities that can be taken by landowners and communities to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. These activities include fuel reduction via mechanical thinning and controlled burning of forests surrounding communities and the creation of defensible space around homes. Promotion of community and homeowner-based risk reduction activities represents a new direction in wildland fire management and prevention. We developed a survey instrument to evaluate the value to homeowners in Florida of public and private programs to reduce wildfire risk. A random stratified random sample was drawn to evaluate potential differences in preferences between people living in low, medium, and high fire risk zones. A choice experiment was designed that allowed respondents to choose between public and private fire risk reduction programs that varied across three attributes: wildfire risk, economic loss, and program cost. The survey was implemented using a phone-mail-phone protocol. Results show that people living in communities they considered to be at high risk of wildfires were willing to pay a substantial premium for public wildfire mitigation programs, but had modest willingness-to-pay (WTP) for fuel reduction programs on their own property. Risk preference is related to demographic characteristics, and households that are risk seeking are more likely to make risky choices regarding wildfire mitigation programs. The results suggest that low income households, households without homeowners insurance, and African-American households living in the WUI may be good candidates for assistance.