Evaluating the Characteristics of Social Vulnerability to Wildfire: Demographics, Perceptions, and Parcel Characteristics

Travis B. Paveglio, Tony Prato, Catrin Edgeley, Darek Nalle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


A large body of research focuses on identifying patterns of human populations most at risk from hazards and the factors that help explain performance of mitigations that can help reduce that risk. One common concept in such studies is social vulnerability—human populations’ potential exposure to, sensitivity from and ability to reduce negative impacts from a hazard. While there is growing interest in social vulnerability for wildfire, few studies have critically evaluated the characteristics that scholars often indicate influence social vulnerability to that hazard. This research utilizes surveys, wildfire simulations, and GIS data to test the relationships between select demographic, perceptual and parcel characteristics of property owners against empirically simulated metrics for wildfire exposure or wildfire-related damages and their performance of mitigation actions. Our results from Flathead County, MT, USA, suggest that parcel characteristics such as property value, building value, and the year structures were built explaining a significant amount of the variance in elements of social vulnerability. Demographic characteristics commonly used in social vulnerability analysis did not have significant relationships with measures of wildfire exposure or vulnerability. Part-time or full-time residency, age, perceived property risk, and year of development were among the few significant determinants of residents’ performance of fuel reduction mitigations, although the significance of these factors varied across the levels of fuel reduction performed by homeowners. We use these and other results to argue for a renewed focus on the finer-scale characteristics that expose some populations to wildfire risk more than others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-548
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Hazard
  • Risk
  • Social vulnerability
  • Vulnerability
  • Wildfire

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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