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Social Disorder, Accidents, and Municipal Wildfires



Douglas S. Thomas, David T. Butry, Jeffrey P. Prestemon


Societal safeguards, established by those who have shared perceptions in the importance of safety and taking preventative measures, reduce the incidence of accidents that harm people and damage property. These safeguards prevent or discourage community members from partaking in careless behavior that often leads to accidents. Wildland urban interface communities that recognize the importance of safety and take preventive measures are likely to have a lower rate of accidental wildfire. Research has established a strong link between a positive safety culture and a reduction in accidents. This paper tests whether the lack of societal safeguards results in higher rates of accidental wildfires by modeling unintentional human caused wildfires as a function of constructed ‘Broken Window’ indices. Areas with abandoned buildings and unkempt infrastructure identify areas with social disorder, where individuals are more likely to partake in careless behaviors that result in frequent accidents. The results from this analysis suggest that social collaboration and crime prevention programs as well as wildfire safety programs may be effective tools in preventing accidental wildfire ignitions and damage.
Proceedings Title
Proceedings for the Third Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference
Conference Dates
April 16-19, 2012
Conference Location
Seattle, WA
Conference Title
Third Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference


social disorder, broken windows, accidents, fire, fire safety


Thomas, D. , Butry, D. and Prestemon, J. (2012), Social Disorder, Accidents, and Municipal Wildfires, Proceedings for the Third Human Dimensions of Wildland Fire Conference, Seattle, WA (Accessed April 20, 2024)
Created December 1, 2012, Updated February 19, 2017