Nov 2, 2018

The unequal vulnerability of communities of color to wildfire

Ian P. Davies, Ryan D. Haugo, James C. Robertson, Phillip S. Levin
  • States that environmental disasters globally impact billions of people and cost trillions of dollars in damage, and their impacts are often felt most acutely by minority and poor communities
  • States that wildfires in the U.S. have similarly outsized impacts on vulnerable communities, though the ethnic and geographic distribution of those communities may be different than for other hazards
  • 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
  • Finds that within this segment, however, are 12 million socially vulnerable Americans for whom a wildfire event could be devastating
  • Finds that 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 other census tract
  • 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

Open source PDF available here