Wildland fire risk and social vulnerability in the Southeastern United States: An exploratory spatial data analysis approach
The southeastern U.S. is one of the more wildland fire prone areas of the country and also contains some of the poorest or most socially vulnerable rural communities. Our project addresses wildland fire risk in this part of the U.S and its intersection with social vulnerability. We examine spatial association between high wildland fire prone areas which also rank high in social vulnerability (“hot spots”) for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. We also look at the proximity of hot spots to wildland fire mitigation programs. We hypothesize that hot spots are less likely than high wildland fire risk/low social vulnerability communities to engage with mitigation programs (e.g., Community Wildfire Protection Plans or Firewise Communities). To assess our hypothesis, we examined mean distances between: 1) hot spots and mitigation programs and 2) high wildland fire risk/low social vulnerability communities and mitigation programs. Overall, results show longer mean distances from hot spots to mitigation programs, compared to distances for high wildland fire risk/low social vulnerability communities. This finding provides support for our hypothesis and suggests that poorer communities in the southeast with high wildland fire risk may be at a greater disadvantage than more affluent, high fire risk communities in these states.