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College of Arts and Sciences

Community Wildfire Risks

Identification of Disadvantaged and Low-Capacity Communities Subject to Wildfire Risks
Lead Investigators: Susan L. Cutter (USC) and Susanna Adamo (CIESIN, Columbia University)

Project Overview

This project will develop an empirical and geospatially based approach for identifying communities most at risk (exposure to wildfires), most in need (social disadvantage), and most affected (having little inherent resilience or capacity) from past and future wildfires. The proof-of-concept focuses on the 26 U.S. states east of the Mississippi River, which have roughly 40 percent of the recorded large fires in the U.S. and roughly 60 percent of the population. The project uses indicators of social vulnerability (Social Vulnerability Index or SoVI), community resilience (Baseline Resilience Indicators for Communities or BRIC), and a composite wildfire exposure dataset consisting of satellite fire detection (NASA’s MODIS and VIIRS data), burned area (USGS’ data), historic and future burn probability (US Forest Service data), and loss data (SHELDUS) for 2000-2020. Two different geospatial methods are tested. The first uses administrative boundaries (counties/census tracts) to identify places with the highest exposure to and potential adverse impacts from wildfire risk. The second model converts the vulnerability, resilience, and exposure datasets to gridded products leveraging CIESIN’s methodology for this application. Comparing the models will determine the best approach for the identification of disadvantaged and low-capacity communities subject to wildfire risk. 

The gridded social vulnerability and community resilience datasets will be publicly available through NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) archive. To foster broader use, demonstrations to local communities and practitioners will help to illustrate how the outputs of the project can assist in local to state planning efforts for hazard mitigation, resilience planning, and disaster recovery. The project will help advance equity by leveraging federal and state resources (including data) targeted to underserved communities pursuant to Executive Orders 13985 and 14008 including the Justice 40 Initiative and will help meet the federal goals of strengthening community resilience to hazards.

Funding:  NASA Science Mission Directorate, Earth Science Division, Applied Sciences Program

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