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Wildfire recovery as a “hot moment” for creating fire-adapted communities

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Schumann, Ronald; Mockrin, Miranda; Syphard, Alexandra; Whittaker, Joshua; Price, Owen; Johnson, Cassandra; Emrich, Christopher; Bustic, Van

Year Published



International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction


Recent decades have witnessed an escalation in the social, economic, and ecological impacts of wildfires
worldwide. Wildfire losses stem from the complex interplay of social and ecological forces at multiple scales,
including global climate change, regional wildfire regimes altered by human activities, and locally managed
wildland-urban interface (WUI) zones where homes increasingly encroach upon wildland vegetation. The
coupled nature of the human-ecological system is precisely what makes reducing wildfire risks challenging. As
losses from wildfire have accelerated, an emerging research and management objective has been to create fireadapted
communities where ecologically functional levels of wildfire are preserved but risks to human lives and
property are minimized. Realizing such a vision will require widespread and decentralized action, but questions
remain as to when and how such a transformation could take place. We suggest that the period following a
destructive wildfire may provide a “hot moment” for community adaptation.
Drawing from literature on natural hazard vulnerability, disaster recovery, and wildfire ecology, this paper
proposes a linked social-ecological model of community recovery and adaptation after disaster. The model
contends that changes during post-wildfire recovery shape a community’s vulnerability to the next wildfire
event. While other studies have highlighted linked social-ecological dynamics that influence pre-fire vulnerability,
few studies have explored social-ecological feedbacks in post-fire recovery. This model contributes to
interdisciplinary social science research on wildfires and to scholarship on community recovery by integrating
hazard vulnerability reduction with recovery in a cyclical framework. Furthermore, it is adaptable to a variety of
hazards beyond wildfire. The model provides a basis for future empirical work examining the nature and
effectiveness of recovery efforts aimed at long-term vulnerability reduction.


Wildfire adaptation; Community recovery; Vulnerability reduction; Coupled social-ecological models;


Schumann, R.L., Mockrin, M., Syphard, A., Whittaker, J., Price, O., Johnson Gaither, C., Emrich, C.T. and Brennan-Kane, T. 2019. Wildfire Recovery as a “Hot Moment” for Creating Fire-Adapted Communities. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

Last updated on: September 22, 2020