News from the CRC

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Dr Sarah McCaffrey
Dr Sarah McCaffrey
Release date
29 Apr 2016

Beware the imagined public

Much of what we believe about the public's response to bushfire risk is wrong, according to visiting US researcher Dr Sarah McCaffrey.

Dr McCaffrey was guest of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC for the International Association of Wildland Fire's 5th International Fire Behaviour and Fuels Conference in Melbourne in April.

After the conference, Dr McCaffrey also spoke to small groups of researchers and fire and land managers in both New South Wales and Victoria.

In Sydney, her post-conference talk was hosted by the NSW Rural Fire Service, in Melbourne, it was Emergency Management Victoria.

Dr McCaffrey spoke about her ongoing studies into the public responses to fire management across the US and Australia – how they are similar, how they are different. With a starting point that fire management is a social rather than a purely biophysical process, she compared research in both countries since the year 2000. He conclusion was that many of the conventional wisdoms on public responses to fire management were incorrect.

Her synthesis of the research ran counter to many narratives, both in Australia and the US, that the public did not understand fire risk, the public thought all fire was bad, and the public did not want to take responsibility for local fire management.

A video of Dr McCaffrey's talk: "Public responses to fire managment across countries - More similarities than differences" will soon be uploaded to this page, as well as other keynote presentations and the panel discussion on prescribed burning from the Fire Behaviour and Fuels conference.

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