Methods for estimating the population impacts of California's 2017 wildfires

Authors: Max Stiefel, University of California, Santa Barbara, Ethan Sharygin*, State of California
Topics: Population Geography, Medical and Health Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: wildfire, fetal origins, PM2.5, air quality, birthweight
Session Type: Guided Poster
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 3.5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Fires are projected to become an increasingly frequent occurrence, a result highlighted in the California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment. There is a need for better tools for understanding how natural disasters affect demographic dynamics. Our first effort to engage this topic is an attempt to measure consequences of a recent fire from 2017. Fires that started in early October 2017 ultimately displaced over 90,000 people and burned 1000 square km across six counties in northern California. The fires destroyed 8,500 housing units-- over 5,000 in Sonoma County. We discuss methods from the literature in applied demography on rapid assessment of the magnitude of migration out of the fire affected areas, as well as destinations and new places of residence. We present a novel method of estimating disaster related migration, using state level data on school enrollment and Census Bureau survey datasets. Using these data, we found evidence that a significant majority of residents remained in close proximity to the disaster area.

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