An Assessment Of Wildfire Vulnerability In Western North Carolina, USA Following The 2016 Wildfires

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lauren Margaret Andersen (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Margaret Sugg

Abstract: In 2016, an intense drought occurred in the southeastern U.S. Dry conditions resulted in unprecedented wildfires throughout southern Appalachia, 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 wildfires. 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 1985-2016. By combining tract-level socioeconomic and physical data in a geographic information system, specific locations of vulnerability were identified and validated using wildfires in 2016. The study contributes to vulnerability research by embracing novel techniques through validation. The vulnerability index indicates that social vulnerability varies greatly, while physical and overall wildfire vulnerability is greatest in rural, mountainous portions of the region, which are less equipped for mitigation. The impacts of future wildfires will vary across the region, so targeted responses are needed. The vulnerability index provides transparency to vulnerable communities and enables policymakers to identify opportunities to prepare for resilience by targeting vulnerability hotspots.

Additional Information

Andersen, L. (2018). "An Assessment Of Wildfire Vulnerability In Western North Carolina, USA Following The 2016 Wildfires." Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2018
Wildfire, Vulnerability, Resilience, GIS, Western North Carolina

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