Fire as a galvanizing and fragmenting influence on communities: the case of the Rodeo-Chediski fire
Document Type: Journal Article
Author(s): Matthew S. Carroll; Patricia J. Cohn; David N. Seesholtz; Lorie L. Higgins
Publication Year: 2005

Cataloging Information

  • Arizona
  • conflict
  • natural/technological disaster
  • Rodeo-Chediski fire
  • social cohesion
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: November 12, 2015
FRAMES Record Number: 12762


Large wildfires that burn through the 'forest-residential intermix' are complex events with a variety of social impacts. This study looks at three northern Arizona community clusters directly affected by the 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire. Our analysis suggests that the fire event led to both the emergence of cohesion and conflict in the study area. Community cohesion was evident as residents 'pulled together' to rebuild their communities. Examples of cohesion included managers of local businesses staying during evacuation to provide for the needs of firefighters, providing shelter and cleanup help for burned-out neighbors, and the emergence of locally based assistance groups. Several types of conflict rooted in blaming and distribution of firefighting and disaster assistance resources were found: cultural, local versus federal, community versus community, intracommunity, and environmental. We suggest that these responses are most usefully understood using the lenses of social psychology (attribution theory) together with sociology (structuration theory). Issues and dynamics that resulted in controversy or were seen as locally constraining and those that resulted in cohesion tended to relate to specific local impacts and how outsider actions were either consonant or dissonant with the application of local knowledge, local autonomy, and locally desirable outcomes.

Online Link(s):
Carroll, Matthew S.; Cohn, Patricia J.; Seesholtz, David N.; Higgins, Lorie L. 2005. Fire as a galvanizing and fragmenting influence on communities: the case of the Rodeo-Chediski fire. Society and Natural Resources 18(4):301-320.