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Environ Manage. 2009 Sep;44(3):441-55. doi: 10.1007/s00267-009-9333-5. Epub 2009 Jul 14.

Situating hazard vulnerability: people's negotiations with wildfire environments in the U.S. southwest.

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  • 1Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Texas at El Paso, 500 West University Avenue, El Paso, TX, 79968, USA.


This article is based on a multimethod study designed to clarify influences on wildfire hazard vulnerability in Arizona's White Mountains, USA. Findings reveal that multiple factors operating across scales generate socially unequal wildfire risks. At the household scale, conflicting environmental values, reliance on fire insurance and firefighting institutions, a lack of place dependency, and social vulnerability (e.g., a lack of financial, physical, and/or legal capacity to reduce risks) were found to be important influences on wildfire risk. At the regional-scale, the shift from a resource extraction to environmental amenity-based economy has transformed ecological communities, produced unequal social distributions of risks and resources, and shaped people's social and environmental interactions in everyday life. While working-class locals are more socially vulnerable than amenity migrants to wildfire hazards, they have also been more active in attempting to reduce risks in the aftermath of the disastrous 2002 Rodeo-Chediski fire. Social tensions between locals and amenity migrants temporarily dissolved immediately following the disaster, only to be exacerbated by the heightened perception of risk and the differential commitment to hazard mitigation displayed by these groups over a 2-year study period. Findings suggest that to enhance wildfire safety, environmental managers should acknowledge the environmental benefits associated with hazardous landscapes, the incentives created by risk management programs, and the specific constraints to action for relevant social groups in changing human-environmental context.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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