Intersections of wildfire risk and social vulnerability in Montana

Authors: Patrick Schmidt*, Middlebury College, Jessica L'Roe, Middlebury College
Topics: Hazards, Risks, and Disasters
Keywords: wildfires, hazards, cadastral
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

It has become clear that wildfires increasingly pose a serious threat to communities throughout the western United States (the West) and the world. Much scientific knowledge has been produced regarding the ecology of fire and its impacts on the physical environment, but up to this point there has been less of a focus on the social context that transforms fire into a hazard for humans. It is important that the impacts of wildfires be interrogated within a framework of social vulnerability and hazards theory. Particularly, we need to know who is vulnerable to fires, and to better understand the nature of their vulnerability, especially in light of the spatial coincidence of wildfire hazard with increasing amenity migration and increasing wildland-urban interface (WUI) development in the West. Using cadastral data from the State of Montana alongside wildfire risk data from the U.S. Forest Service and historical fire data from the USGS, I interrogate the relationships between land ownership and wildfire hazard in Montana. Spatial and statistical analyses are informed by interviews conducted with local informants in the Bitterroot Valley during January of 2018. This paper is intended to provide valuable insights regarding who is exposed, who is at risk, and what we can do moving forward.

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