International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health; Shahir Masri, Erica Anne Shenoi, Dana Rose Garfin, Jun Wu; Published January 1, 2023; DOI: 10.3390/ijerph20010815


Major wildfires and their smoke pose a threat to public health and are becoming more frequent in the United States, particularly in California and other populated, fire-prone states. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how California residents view wildfires and engage in risk-reducing behaviors during wildfire events. Currently, there is a knowledge gap concerning this area of inquiry. We disseminated a 40-question cross-sectional survey to explore wildfire perception and knowledge along with related risk-reducing measures and policies among 807 adult residents in the fire-prone region of Orange County, California. Results demonstrated that nearly all (>95%) participants had (or knew someone who had) previously experienced a wildfire. Female gender, knowing a wildfire victim and reporting to have a general interest/passion for environmental issues were the three factors most strongly associated with (1) wildfires (and smoke) being reported as a threat, (2) participants’ willingness to evacuate if threatened by a nearby wildfire, and (3) participants’ willingness to support a wildfire-related tax increase (p < 0.05). The majority (57.4%) of participants agreed that the occurrence of wildfires is influenced by climate change, with the most commonly reported risk-reducing actions (by 44% of participants) being informational actions (e.g., tracking the news) rather than self-motivated physical safety actions (e.g., using an air purifier) (29%). The results of this study can help to inform decision- and policy-making regarding future wildfire events as well as allow more targeted and effective public health messaging and intervention measures, in turn helping to reduce the risk associated with future wildfire/smoke episodes.


climate change; global warming; risk perception; survey; wildfire.