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Journal Article


Andersen LM, Sugg MM. Int. J. Disaster Risk Reduct. 2019; 39: e101123.


(Copyright © 2019, Elsevier Publishing)






In 2016, an intense drought occurred in the southeastern U.S. Dry conditions resulted in unprecedented wildfires throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains, especially in western North Carolina (WNC). Future climate change is expected to increase temperatures, alter precipitation, and stress water resources in the region, which could lead to more frequent drought and wildfire. The increasing threat of destructive wildfires combined with a growing wildland-urban interface indicate a need for a comprehensive assessment of wildfire vulnerability in WNC, while recent wildfires offer an opportunity to evaluate assessment accuracy. The study identifies locations vulnerable to wildfire in WNC based on wildfires from 1985 through 2016. By combining tract-level socioeconomic and physical data in a geographic information system, specific locations of vulnerability were identified and validated using wildfire perimeters from 2016. Unlike previous vulnerability research, this study integrates novel methods in GIS, including analytical hierarchical processing, validation, and GIS multi-decision criteria decision making to ensure vulnerability is accurately calculated. The vulnerability index indicates that social vulnerability varies greatly throughout the region, while physical and overall wildfire vulnerability is greatest in rural, mountainous portions of the region, which are less equipped for mitigation. Based on the results, the impacts of future wildfires on quality of life will vary across the region, so targeted responses are needed. The vulnerability index provides transparency to vulnerable communities, enabling policymakers to identify opportunities to prepare for resilience by targeting vulnerability hotspots.

Language: en


Appalachia; GIS; Resilience; Vulnerability; Western North Carolina; Wildfire


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