Locating spatial variation in the association between wildland fire risk and social vulnerability across six southern states


Wildland fire in the South commands considerable attention, given the expanding wildland urban interface (WUI) across the region. Much of this growth is propelled by higher income retirees and others desiring natural amenity residential settings. However, population growth in the WUI increases the likelihood of wildfire fire ignition caused by people, as humans account for 93% of all wildfires fires in the South. Coexisting with newly arrived, affluent WUI populations are working class, poor or otherwise socially vulnerable populations. The latter groups typically experience greater losses from environmental disasters such as wildfire because lower income residents are less likely to have established mitigation programs in place to help absorb loss. We use geographically weighted regression to examine spatial variation in the association between social vulnerability (SOVUL) and wildfire risk. In doing so, we identify ‘‘hot spots’’ or geographical clusters where SOVUL varies positively with wildfire risk across six Southern states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. These clusters may or may not be located in the WUI. These hot spots are most prevalent in South Carolina and Florida. Identification of these population clusters can aid wildfire managers in deciding which communities to prioritize for mitigation programming.

  • Citation: Poudyal, Neelam; Johnson Gaither, Cassandra; Goodrick, Scott; Bowker, J.M.; Gan, Jianbang 2012. Locating spatial variation in the association between wildland fire risk and social vulnerability across six southern states. Environmental Management 49(3):623-635. DOI:10.1007/s00267-011-9796-z
  • Keywords: Wildland fire risk, Social vulnerability, Environmental hazards, Southeastern U.S., Geographically weighted regression
  • Posted Date: September 18, 2012
  • Modified Date: March 23, 2017
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