Community diversity and hazard events: understanding the evolution of local approaches to wildfire

Travis Paveglio, Catrin Edgeley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Existing research indicates that distinct human populations may prepare for, experience, and recover from wildfires in different ways. However, research that helps explain differential adaptation actions surrounding wildfire events is rare. The research presented here applied an existing approach for characterizing the social diversity of communities at risk from wildfire to: (1) identify any unique populations (i.e., “communities”) affected by the same large wildfire event; and (2) help explain the evolution of their approaches to wildfire risk management. Researchers conducted interviews with 87 residents and professionals who experienced the 2014 Carlton Complex Wildfire in Washington State, USA, including 53 residents who experienced property damage or loss. Results revealed three different “communities” whose local social context influenced differential preparation for wildfire and helped explain decisions to evacuate or stay and defend their property during the fire event. Likewise, respondents explained how combinations of social context characteristics unique to each community helped explain post-fire reactions to the Carlton Complex Wildfire and the actions each is taking to address future events. We compare our findings about community-specific influences on wildfire-related action to existing insights from wildfire social science literature to illuminate how systematic characterization of community context and recognition of dynamic social change can help inform wildfire management. We also present a conceptual model explaining how existing social dynamics, history and interactions surrounding a given wildfire event contribute to the evolution of local approaches to wildfire risk. The manuscript concludes with practical recommendations for integrating the above lessons into wildfire management and policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1083-1108
Number of pages26
JournalNatural Hazards
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Mitigation
  • Social diversity
  • Wildfire
  • Wildland–urban interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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