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Places where wildfire potential and social vulnerability coincide in the conterminous United States

Author(s): Gabriel Wigtil, Roger B. Hammer, Jeffrey D. Kline, Miranda H. Mockrin, Susan I. Stewart, Daniel Roper, Volker C. Radeloff
Year Published: 2016

The hazards-of-place model posits that vulnerability to environmental hazards depends on both biophysical and social factors. Biophysical factors determine where wildfire potential is elevated, whereas social factors determine where and how people are affected by wildfire. We evaluated place vulnerability to wildfire hazards in the coterminous US. We developed a social vulnerability index using principal component analysis and evaluated it against existing measures of wildfire potential and wildland–urban interface designations. We created maps showing the coincidence of social vulnerability and wildfire potential to identify places according to their vulnerability to wildfire. We found that places with high wildfire potential have, on average, lower social vulnerability than other places, but nearly 10% of all housing in places with high wildfire potential also exhibits high social vulnerability. We summarised our data by states to evaluate trends at a subnational level. Although some regions, such as the South-east, had more housing in places with high wildfire vulnerability, other regions, such as the upper Midwest, exhibited higher rates of vulnerability than expected. Our results can help to inform wildfire prevention, mitigation and recovery planning, as well as reduce wildfire hazards affecting vulnerable places and populations.

Citation: Wigtil, Gabriel; Hammer, Roger B.; Kline, Jeffrey D.; Mockrin, Miranda H.; Stewart, Susan I.; Roper, Daniel; Radeloff, Volker C. 2016. Places where wildfire potential and social vulnerability coincide in the coterminous United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire. http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF15109
Topic(s): Wildland Urban Interface
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 14522
Record updated: May 14, 2018