McGee T, Langer ER. 2019. Residents' preparedness, experiences and actions during an extreme wildfire in the Far North, Aotearoa New Zealand. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 41:101303. doi:10.1016/j.ijdrr.2019.101303.
This paper presents results of a qualitative study in the Far North of Aotearoa New Zealand that examined wildfire experiences and actions by residents during an extreme wildfire in 2011. It also looks at preparedness before and after the wildfire. Semi-structured interviews and a focus group were completed with 35 predominantly Māori residents. We found that the wildfire, including the death of a helicopter pilot and government worker was devastating for participants. Participants with homes in the area affected by the fire responded in various ways. Some tried to protect their homes while the fire was burning nearby and then fled to the nearby beach. Others stayed in their house and waited to be evacuated. One evacuated as soon as they became aware of the fire. Participants did not have formal evacuation plans but had water sources and had identified the beach as a safe place where they and their children would go in the event of a wildfire. There is evidence that experiencing this fire encouraged some, but not all participants, to become better prepared. Whānau and marae helped to inform and support residents during and after the fire event. Recommendations are provided to enhance the preparedness of residents in Northland and elsewhere.