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Navigating the Wildfire–Pandemic Interface: Public Perceptions of COVID-19 and the 2020 Wildfire Season in Arizona

Author(s): Catrin Edgeley, Jack T. Burnett
Year Published: 2020
Description:

COVID-19 has complicated wildfire management and public safety for the 2020 fire season. It is unclear whether COVID-19 has impacted the ability of residents in the wildland–urban interface to prepare for and evacuate from wildfire, or the extent to which residents feel their household’s safety has been affected. Several areas with high wildfire risk are also experiencing record numbers of COVID-19 cases, including the state of Arizona in the southwestern United States. We conducted a mixed-mode survey of households in close proximity to two recent wildfires in rural Arizona to better understand whether residents living in the wildland–urban interface perceive COVID-19 as a factor in wildfire safety. Preliminary data suggest that the current challenges around collective action to address wildfire risk may be further exacerbated due to COVID-19, and that the current pandemic has potentially widened existing disparities in household capacity to conduct wildfire risk mitigation activities in the wildland–urban interface. Proactive planning for wildfire has also increased perceived ability to practice safe distancing from others during evacuation, highlighting the benefits that household planning for wildfire can have on other concurrent hazards. Parallels in both the wildfire and pandemic literature highlight vast opportunities for future research that can expand upon and advance our findings.

Citation: Edgeley CM, and Burnett JT. 2020. Navigating the Wildfire–Pandemic Interface: Public Perceptions of COVID-19 and the 2020 Wildfire Season in Arizona. Fire 3(3): 41. https://doi.org/10.3390/fire3030041 
Topic(s): Fire Communication & Education, Risk
Ecosystem(s): None
Document Type: Book or Chapter or Journal Article
NRFSN number: 21769
Record updated: Sep 3, 2020