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Open AccessArticle

Local Perceptions of Fires Risk and Policy Implications in the Hills of Valparaíso, Chile

1
Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2, Santiago 8370449, Chile
2
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences Universidad de Chile, Santiago 7800284, Chile
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Department of Environmental Sciences and Renewable Natural Resources, Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, Universidad de Chile, Santiago 8820808, Chile
4
REDLAMA (Latinoamerican Educational Network for the Environment), Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2, Santiago 8370449, Chile
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Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Universidad de Chile, Santiago 7800284, Chile
6
Faculty of Forestry Sciences and Natural Resources, Conservation, Biodiversity and Territory Institute, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia 5090000, Chile
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(10), 4298; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12104298
Received: 18 March 2020 / Revised: 13 May 2020 / Accepted: 14 May 2020 / Published: 25 May 2020
Climate change is increasing the occurrence of natural disasters worldwide, and more frequent and intense fires represent one of the most destructive expressions of this trend. Chile is highly vulnerable to climate change, and fires are a recurrent phenomenon affecting many people each year. To reduce fire risk, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests reducing both exposure and vulnerability through multiple initiatives, which demand increased community engagement. In such a context, this study explores local perceptions of fire in a sample of inhabitants in a wildland-urban interface (WUI) in Valparaiso, a city that is affected by numerous fires each year. The ultimate goal was to identify psychological and community factors that should be taken into consideration to develop prevention plans and safer environments for people living in a context of poverty and social inequity. Using a qualitative approach, 28 interviews were conducted and analyzed following grounded theory principles. Results identified multiple causes, impacts, and characteristics of the problem perceived by people who permanently cohabit with fire risk, showing that for many of them, fire risk is not about the probability of occurrence of a disaster, but a question about when and how the next fire will happen. However, in such a complex scenario, psychological, community, and structural barriers deter people from implementing more effective actions. Conversely, in emergency situations, such barriers are irrelevant and cooperative actions prevail, suggesting the existence of resources and capacities within the community that could lessen exposure and vulnerability if activated on a day-to-day basis. Overall, reducing fire risk cannot be achieved by local communities alone nor without their support. To build, maintain, and consolidate fire prevention actions, it is critical to activate community strengths and cooperation and engage the resources and management capacity of local governments. View Full-Text
Keywords: fire risk perceptions; fires prevention; disasters risk reduction; Chile; climate change fire risk perceptions; fires prevention; disasters risk reduction; Chile; climate change
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Sapiains, R.; Ugarte, A.M.; Aldunce, P.; Marchant, G.; Romero, J.A.; González, M.E.; Inostroza-Lazo, V. Local Perceptions of Fires Risk and Policy Implications in the Hills of Valparaíso, Chile. Sustainability 2020, 12, 4298.

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