Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

Document Type



In response to increased annual wildfire destruction and insufficient wildfire mitigation approaches from the federal government, the state of California adopted Public Resources Code Sections 4290 and 4291 in the year 1991. These laws force the removal of fire-causing agents from public and private areas, and establish what is known as defensible space. Defensible space is defined in Section 4291 as the area within the perimeter of a parcel, development, neighborhood, or community where basic wildland fire protection practices and measures are implemented, providing the key point of defense from an approaching wildfire or escaping structure fire. One method to successfully establish these areas of defensible space is by educating the public about the dangers, causes, and fuel sources of wildfires. County-level public outreach programs known as Fire Safe Councils encourage cooperation within the public sector in regards to state wildfire legislation by publishing fire information and risk-related maps and by conducting prescribed burns which alleviate dead, fire-fueling debris in forests. Local Council chapters are composed of over sixty public and private organizations in and beyond California. Forty-eight of California’s fifty-eight counties have at least one Fire Safe Council. Ten have none. In an attempt to gain insight into what accounts for variation, a total of twelve independent variables concerning socioeconomics and wildfire hazard rating (risk) were constructed to represent each county. Data was collected from various sources and inputted into the statistical modeling program, SPSS, for testing. Out of the five categories of independent variables; population, economic, education, civic participation, and hazard rating, only variables within the population and economic categories were determined to have any significant associations with decisions to establish Fire Safe Councils. The results of this study thereby set the stage for changes to be made in current wildfire mitigation, namely, a reevaluation of hazard models and Sections 4290 and 4291.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Margaret Reams