Evaluating livelihood vulnerability index for the top 14 American States at high risk of wildfires

Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Margarita Rivera1, Janine Baijnath-Rodino2, Mukesh Kumar1, Khoa Dang Tran1 and Tirtha Banerjee2, (1)University of California Irvine, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Irvine, CA, United States, (2)University of California Irvine, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Irvine, CA, United States
Wildfires are increasing at an alarming rate across the United States (US) and are becoming more destructive, costlier and difficult to contain as the wildland-urban interface (WUI) expands and climate conditions become more extreme. Wildfires pose environmental, social and economic threats to fire-prone regions, making it challenging to quantify these threats across multi-scale, economic and biophysical variables for wildfire resiliency and mitigation measures. To address this challenge, we conducted a Livelihood Vulnerability Index (LVI) for the top 14 American States at high risk of wildfires. An LVI analysis allows us to evaluate wildfire risk across multi-scales and multi-variables. We propose an LVI framework that systematically examines the interdisciplinary and complex interactions among humans and their physical and social environments. Our framework consists of contributing factors (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity), major components, sub-components, and indicator variables that encompass multiple variables directly related to the livelihood impacts that wildfires have on each State. A principal component analysis is carried out to determine the possible redundancy amongst indicator variables and to further validate our proposed framework. Results indicate that Arizona and New Mexico experience the greatest livelihood vulnerability, while Texas, Florida, and California pose the least. Our results suggest that LVI is strongly weighted on its contributing factors and is exemplified by the fact that even though California has one of the highest exposures and sensitivity to wildfires, it has very high adaptive capacity measures in place to withstand its vulnerability. The results of this work will allow States at high fire-risk to focus their efforts on improving their emergency preparedness, response, and recovery capacity; to further protect vulnerable communities.