Address the physical, social, and economic well-being of people in the community.
Taking action for community health can affect susceptibility. Explore your community’s risk.
About Community Health and Safety
People’s need and ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from wildfire can be influenced by factors such as socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and age. A wildfire disaster can impact the physical, social, and economic well-being of a community long after the fire is extinguished. Even if a community is not damaged from wildfire, exposure to wildfire smoke can pose a serious health risk, especially for sensitive groups.
Vulnerable populations are more likely to be disproportionately affected by wildfire because they may lack access to resources, experience cultural and institutional barriers, have limited mobility, or have compromised physical health. For example, wildfires may disproportionately affect those living in poverty because of factors such as inadequate housing, social exclusion, and a diminished ability to mitigate or relocate. Disabled persons, the elderly, and the very young can be especially sensitive to environmental stress and respiratory issues from wildfire smoke. Understanding who in the community is most vulnerable and where risk is highest can help prioritize and direct resources.
AirNow is a one-stop source for air quality data, including impacts of wildfire smoke. It reports current air quality using the official U.S. Air Quality Index, a color-coded index designed to communicate whether air is healthy or unhealthy and which types of activities should be limited during air quality events.
Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network
The Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network connects and supports people and communities who are striving to live more safely with wildfire. The purpose of FAC Net is to exchange information, collaborate to enhance the practice of fire adaptation, and work together and at multiple scales to help communities live safely with fire. This includes embracing resiliency concepts and taking action before, during and after wildfires. They offer a Fire Adapted Communities Self-Assessment Tool (FAC SAT) to help communities assess their level of fire adaptation and track their capacity to live safely with fire over time
Hispanic Access Foundation Wildfire Toolkit
Latino communities are more vulnerable to experiencing the adverse effects of wildfires. The Hispanic Access Foundation Wildfire Toolkit provides resources about regulations and policies, public and mental health, and response and recovery issues to help communities address Latino considerations related to wildfire.
Neighborhoods at Risk
Neighborhoods at Risk– a tool from Headwaters Economics–generates customized, interactive maps and reports that describe characteristics of potentially vulnerable neighborhoods (by census tract). See where impacts from climate change are likely to impact the most vulnerable people and view community-level climate projections for temperature and precipitation.
Populations at Risk
Populations at Risk– a tool from Headwaters Economics–generates free, customized reports with socioeconomic information about populations more likely to experience adverse social, health, or economic outcomes due to their race, age, gender, poverty status, or other factors. Reports use data from the Census’ American Community Survey (ACS) and are available at multiple scales, from neighborhoods to states.
Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke
Health professionals, people with chronic conditions, and citizens can find strategies to reduce exposure to wildfire smoke.
Smoke-Ready Toolbox for Wildfires
Public health officials and others can use the resources in the EPA’s Smoke-Ready Toolbox to help educate people about the risks of smoke exposure and actions they can take to protect their health.
Research & Science
- Assessing the Environmental, Social, and Economic Impacts of Wildfire. Morton DC, Roessing ME, Camp AE, & Tyrrell ML. (2003). GISF Research Paper 001, Forest Health Initiative. New Haven, CT: Yale University.
- Full Community Costs of Wildfire. Barrett K. (2018). Bozeman, MT: Headwaters Economics.
- Social vulnerability to large wildfires in the western USA. Palaiologou P, Ager AA, Nielsen-Pincus M, Evers CR, Day MA. (2019). Landscape and Urban Planning, 189, 99-116.
- The economic cost of adverse health effects from wildfire-smoke exposure: A review. Kochi I, Donovan GH, Champ PA, & Loomis JB. (2010). International Journal of Wildland Fire, 19, 803-817.
- The unequal vulnerability of communities of color to wildfire.Davies I, Haugo RD, Robertson JC, & Levin PS. (2018). PLoS ONE 13(11): e0205825.
Learn how these actions align with federal policies and initiatives.