Ecology and Society Ecology and Society
E&S Home > Vol. 26, Iss. 3 > Art. 18 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Wildfire volunteering and community disaster resilience in New Zealand: institutional change in a dynamic rural social-ecological setting

Andrea Grant, Scion
E. R. (Lisa) Langer, Scion

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12474-260318

Full Text: HTML   
Download Citation


Abstract

Wildfire is a major environmental hazard, yet the social and institutional aspects of wildfire risk management have received limited attention in the literature. Considering future climate change, changing demographics, and the increased demands on fire services more generally, there is an urgent need to better understand the significance of volunteers in emergency management. Volunteering brings together community actors and formal institutions in responding to natural hazards including wildfires. In this paper, we use systemic co-inquiry with volunteer leaders to better understand how to integrate formal and informal volunteers by addressing how resilience is being enacted and what opportunities exist for building community resilience. We examine practices of transitioning from past norms of volunteering to create new institutions for supporting community resilience to wildfires. Findings demonstrate the need for the emergency management sector to promote community resilience through the support of informal volunteers and move beyond traditional representations of rural fire brigade volunteers’ roles as firefighters. Vulnerabilities at different organizational scales, community, brigade, and regional, limit existing arrangements for wildfire volunteering, and highlight the need to adapt to changing contexts. Opportunities for building community resilience are identified, including supporting non-firefighting roles for brigade volunteers; aligning with spontaneous volunteers for enhancing rural community disaster preparedness; and outreach to support preparedness activities in isolated and remote communities. Building on the direct experiences of our participants, we articulate the importance of institutional reflexivity involving localized reflection on volunteer organization as a vehicle for change toward more resilient wildfire futures.

Key words

institutional reflexivity; learning systems; natural hazards; volunteer leaders; wildfire resilience

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Top
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087