Wildland Urban Interface
A growing body of research indicates that communities at risk from wildfire differ in terms of the local social context that influences adaptive planning, mitigations or collective actions. Less work has attempted to document critical differences in that local social context across large samples. The research presented here explores a quantitative operationalization of an established framework for characterizing the social diversity of communities at risk from wildfire. We conducted structured interviews with key informants across nine U.S. states. Factor analysis, regression and hierarchical cluster analysis were used to characterize social context across communities and relate it to key informant evaluations of progress toward fire adaptation. Our results advance methods to systematically document how social context influences local wildfire adaptation by: (1) examining a preliminary set of quantitative key-informant measures for gauging social context across a range of WUI communities; (2) identifying related elements of social context that may collectively influence wildfire adaptations; (3) providing preliminary statistical evidence that highly related elements of local social context are correlated with expert assessment of local populations’ adaptations to wildfire; and (4) identifying differences in social context characteristics across a sample of western USA WUI communities. However, it also is important to recognize that the measures tested here serve as indicators of deeper conceptual understandings informed by in-depth case studies. Efforts to use these measures should be augmented with additional qualitative work and build from those deeper understandings by considering the complexity of local dynamics surrounding wildfire management.