Researchers look at community resiliency after Angora |

Researchers look at community resiliency after Angora

Tribune staff report

Researchers from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, will survey South Lake Tahoe residents about the 2007 Angora fire in an attempt to learn lessons about community responses to disaster, according to a Monday statement from the university.

Jeannette Sutton, senior research associate, and Charles “Chip” Benight, director, UCCS Trauma, Health and Hazards Center, are studying behavioral responses and access to critical information during catastrophic wildfires in rural communities.

“We hope to understand how access to information may decrease stress and increase the ability to cope effectively,” Sutton said in the statement.

Randomly selected South Shore residents will be asked to participate in a 20-minute phone survey about their fire experience and their perception of the response and recovery process as part of the study.

The effort is funded by the National Science Foundation and is backed by the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce and the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors, according to the statement.

“The scars left behind by a catastrophic fire are not only on the landscape but also on the communities affected,” El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago said in the statement. “Strong community linkages combined with effective leadership from the public and private sectors help build the resiliency needed to move forward.”

While the study focuses on South Lake Tahoe, Sutton believes the findings will serve as a model for other fire-prone areas.

“This is extremely important as much of the U.S. is currently experiencing drought-like conditions and extreme heat,” Sutton said in the statement.

Sutton and Benight recently saw the potential effects of those conditions when the Waldo Canyon fire erupted in Colorado Springs on June 23. The fire burned 18,247 acres and destroyed 346 houses, making it the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

The Waldo Canyon fire was listed as 98 percent contained Tuesday afternoon. Sutton plans to submit a proposal to study its effect on the Colorado Springs community, according to the statement.

“We want to investigate the effect that access to critical information has on how people were able to make rapid decisions as the fire approached and their perceptions of how the community will remain resilient and recover,” Sutton said.

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