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Residents Want Better Wildfire Information

September 15, 2008

During the initial stages of a fire, people want real-time information specific to a location, such as a subdivision, California researchers said.

Deborah Chavez, a Forest Service social scientist, said more than 20 scientists presented their work in a 260-page report, entitled “Fire Social Science Research From the Pacific Southwest Research Station: Studies Supported by National Fire Plan Funds.”

California residents complained public information officers during wildfires were preoccupied reporting on which agencies were managing fires, firefighting resources being used and suppression costs, researchers said.

However, a study of the evacuations in 2003 near San Bernardino, Calif., showed that cell phones, digital cameras, text messaging, blogs, personal Web sites and e-mail provided specific information on the wildfire spread.

The researchers also said the media coverage of the wildfires was often sensationalized, inaccurate and directed to regional audiences and not those affected by local evacuations.




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