Human Factors of Vulnerability to Forest Fires in Mediterranean Wildland/Urban Interfaces

Human Factors of Vulnerability to Forest Fires in Mediterranean Wildland/Urban Interfaces: An interdisciplinary approach

Project description: 
This research work is aimed at identifying and assessing the human factors of vulnerabilities to forest fire in wildland urban interfaces, prone to that risk. It is based on the cross of two main approaches: the first approach is an objective assessment of local vulnerability provided by models now being developed by risk researchers (Pugnet 2006). These are called physical models of vulnerability. They are based on the study of damages caused by past fires in relation to the local contexts. Physical vulnerability will then be related to human representations and practices regarding vulnerability of local actors’ goods (household, in particular), through a sociological approach. Link between these two approaches will be insured by the study of the relationship between historical damaged goods and socio-economic attributes of their owners or managers based on a quantitative analysis. 
The quantitative approach will try to relate physical vulnerability calculated by a multi-criteria model, and a range of human factors, like socio-economical typologies of residents, activities, kind of good, tenure, etc. Two sets of data will have to be collected: on one hand data relative to physical environment of the individual human goods (in particular dwelling houses) and, on the other hand, socio-economic data relative to actors (owners, residents, etc.). The sociological approach will analyze opinions, declarations and practices of different types of actors involved in forest fire risk management or concerned by the risk. Data collection is based on semi-directive inquiries with a typology of local actor involved in forest fire risk management or concerned by the risk: political decision makers, forest fire risk managers (forest managers, civil security managers and firefighters, etc.), and residents or owners of terrains prone to forest fire. 
The aim of this investigation will be to understand how a subjective representation of vulnerability to forest fire might be a central element of choices in land management decision, in relation to national regulations for forest protection and defense against fire. The purpose will be to analyze, regarding objective assessments of vulnerabilities realized in part (a), choices of land management operated by local decision makers and other local actors on the territory they manage. Then, the analysis will identify the human processes that lead from such political choices to the persistence of objective vulnerabilities assessed with physical models.

Human determinants of local vulnerabilities will be assessed regarding the level of vulnerability calculated by the physical model. A human “objective” model of vulnerability will so be specified. Then, the sociological approach will permit to understand how the local realization of global (national) political decisions for protection and land management depends on local contexts and on local political choices and capabilities.