Equitable Risk Reduction
Address the social and economic vulnerabilities of people in the community.
Taking action for equitable risk reduction can affect susceptibility.
About Equitable Risk Reduction
The impacts of wildfire are too often borne disproportionately by historically marginalized communities and are compounded by systemic inequities. Research shows that neighborhoods that are majority Black, Native American or Hispanic are approximately 50% more vulnerable to wildland fire. Families in poverty, those over 65 years of age, people with access and functional needs, and those without transportation are more likely to experience the negative impacts of wildfire. People who lack access to resources, experience cultural and institutional barriers, have limited mobility, or have compromised physical health are more vulnerable to wildfire and other disasters. 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.
You can explore the Vulnerable Populations section of this website to identify neighborhoods where people may have disproportionate impacts from wildfire.
Explore your community’s risk.
Video courtesy Wenatchee, Washington and Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.
Getting Started with Equitable Wildfire Risk Reduction
Start with the whole community
Successful community risk reduction includes whole communities. Understanding your community, its wildfire risks, and how wildfire impacts are distributed across the population can help create more widespread and equitable risk reduction. Explore data for your community.
Taking the time to build relationships and trust with community partners is an essential step. Go to community-based organizations, faith-based groups, nonprofits, and others working across your community to listen and learn.
By working together, partners can ensure that risk-reduction programs, materials, and supports are available and accessible to all. This may mean modifying existing programs or creating entirely new strategies to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.
Find additional tools, checklists, training modules, and more in this free, two-page handout.
Read the story of equitable risk reduction in Austin, Texas.
Explore your community’s risk.
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.
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.
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.
Government Alliance on Race & Equity
The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) is working to achieve racial equity throughout the nation. Tools and resources available through GARE include issue papers and toolkits, including a Racial Equity tool that provides a broad framework for communities seeking to better integrate racial equity into their work.
Equity Foundations Training
The Urban Sustainability Director’s Network created this holistic curriculum of webinars, videos, and worksheets to help local government staff to apply an equity lens to sustainability projects. The independent study program is available for free.
Limited English Proficiency
LEP.gov provides resources and information to expand and improve language access for individuals with limited English proficiency. The site provides data and language maps as well as guidance and resources for those working in emergency preparedness.
Community Engagement Toolkit
These free toolkits each contain a 3-part video series, presentation template with facilitator’s notes, and sample agendas (including resource links). The videos are in Spanish with English subtitles and cover topics including landscapes, communities, evacuation, smoke, home hardening, and resident recovery.
Ready.gov provides free information for all people seeking to prepare for disasters. This resource includes material tailored to individuals with access and functional needs. Information includes important planning considerations, emergency communication plan templates, and videos with open captions and American Sign Language.
Capacity-Building Toolkit for including Aging and Disability Networks in Emergency Planning
Developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response in coordination with the National Association of County and City Health Officials, this free toolkit provides a resources guide for aging and disability networks to plan for and respond to disasters. Content is designed to support those with access and functional needs.
USFS Smoke Ready
This site is a compilation of information on how to be smoke ready and is intended for use by land management, public health, and environmental agencies; incident management teams and emergency responders; local governments, non-governmental organizations, and the general public. It includes messaging and resources in multiple languages.
Research & Science
- Adams M, Charnley S. (2021). Reducing Fuels and Advancing Equity: Incorporating Environmental Justice Into Hazardous Fuels Management. Science Findings 243. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 6 p.
- Coughlan M; Ellison A; Cavanaugh A. (2019). Social Vulnerability and Wildfire in the Wildland-Urban Interface Literature Synthesis. Ecosystem Workforce Program Working Paper. 96.
- Davies IP, Haugo RD, Robertson JC, Levine PS. (2018). The unequal vulnerability of communities of color to wildfire. PLoS ONE. 13(11): e0205825.
- Méndez M, Flores-Haro G, Zuckerc L. (2020). The (in)visible victims of disaster: Understanding the vulnerability of undocumented Latino/a and indigenous immigrants. Geoforum. 116:50-62.
- Palaiologou P; Ager AA, Nielsen-Pincus M, Evers CR, Day MA. (2019). Social vulnerability to large wildfires in the western USA. Landscape and Urban Planning 189: 99-116.
- Thomas AS, Escobedo FJ, Sloggy MR, Sánchez JJ. (2022). A burning issue: Reviewing the socio-demographic and environmental justice aspects of the wildfire literature. PLoS ONE. 17(7): e0271019.
- Wigtil G; Hammer RB, Kline JD, Mockrin MH, Stewart SI, Roper D, Radeloff VC. (2016). Places where wildfire potential and social vulnerability coincide in the coterminous United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 25: 896-908.