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01-11-2014 | Original Paper | Uitgave 8/2014

Journal of Child and Family Studies 8/2014

Family Functioning Following Wildfires: Recovering from the 2011 Slave Lake Fires

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 8/2014
Anna Pujadas Botey, Judith C. Kulig


Natural disasters are increasingly becoming a common occurrence; but there remains a paucity of information about how families as a unit recover from disasters in general and from wildfires in particular. The work presented here investigates family recovery after a devastating wildfire in a rural community in Alberta, Canada. The goal is to examine the experience of families, parents and children, in the aftermath of the wildfire including the evacuation and recovery. The study was conducted within a research program that is focusing on understanding the links between disaster recovery and community resilience. We interviewed 27 parents and 26 children representing 19 families and conducted extensive community fieldwork. Data analysis included an inductive coding process. Findings indicate commonalities among affected families. In particular, six main themes related to family recovery were generated: different life goals and priorities, new routines, changes in attitudes, changes in interactions within the family unit and with the community, as well as new values and perceptions. Results also indicate parents’ and children’s recovery is marked by their own experiences and particular needs. The discussion of these findings highlights the important role of parents in family recovery, but also the necessity of examining the family unit and the changes it undergoes in re-establishing family routines while acknowledging children’s concerns about protecting their parents. The study enhances our theoretical understanding of the social impacts of wildfires and is useful for those involved in disaster planning and recovery in preparation for future wildfire events.

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