Ian P. Davies, Ryan D. Haugo, James C. Robertson, Phillip S. Levin


Published date November 2, 2018

The unequal vulnerability of communities of color to wildfire

  • Develops a social-ecological approach for characterizing fire vulnerability and applies it to >70,000 census tracts across the United States
  • Incorporates both the wildfire potential of a landscape and socioeconomic attributes of overlying communities
  • Finds that:
    • Over 29 million Americans live with significant potential for extreme wildfires, a majority of whom are white and socioeconomically secure
    • Within this segment, however, are 12 million socially vulnerable Americans for whom a wildfire event could be devastating
    • Wildfire vulnerability is spread unequally across race and ethnicity, with census tracts that were majority Black, Hispanic or Native American experiencing ca. 50% greater vulnerability to wildfire compared to others
  • Concludes that embracing a social-ecological perspective of fire-prone landscapes allows for the identification of areas that are poorly equipped to respond to wildfires