The effects of wildfire prevention activities
Eighty percent of wildfires are human caused. Unintentional human-caused fires can be caused by carelessness, failure of equipment, or a number of other factors. A significant proportion of the literature on accidents, in general, focuses on occupational accidents. Approximately 80 % to 90 % of these accidents are thought to be due to human error (Heinrich et al 1980, Hale and Glendon 1987, Salminen and Tallberg 1996); thus, the vast majority involves human behavior and not unforeseen acts of nature. Research on occupational accidents has concluded that the best safety and health programs have an established safety culture (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), which includes “shared perceptions of the importance of safety and… confidence in the efficacy of preventive measures” (Health and Safety Commission 1993). Research has further found a significant correlation between reduced accidents and positive safety culture/safety climate in the workplace (Hofmann and Stetzer 1996, Oliver et al 2002, Gillen et al 2002, Hemingway and Smith 1999, Clarke 2006, Bjerkan 2010, Tomas 1999, Varonen 2000, Lucas 1992). A positive safety culture/climate might be described as an environment where people conform to norms and rules regarding safety. It is plausible, therefore, that communities that recognize the importance of safety and that take preventive measures are also likely to have a lower rate of accidents. In 2009, there were an estimated 6.8 million injuries resulting in 2923 deaths that occurred at personal residences (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission 2009). It is likely that these accidents have similar causes to occupational accidents (i.e., human behavior); thus, the effect of careless behavior at home is significant. Many of these injuries may have been prevented by taking safety measures. In regards to accidental fires, it is estimated that 55 % of wildfires between 2002 and 2007 were human caused unintentional fires and, although these accidents are not always related to occupational accidents, they are likely related to careless behavior influenced by a lack of shared perceptions on the importance of safety and prevention.