An interdisciplinary team of researchers examines whether wildfires lead to transformative adaptation or entrenchment and re-creation of hazard-prone environments.

Destructive wildfires are sudden, extreme events: In a matter of hours, both social and ecological communities are transformed by the loss of homes and lives, and change in natural vegetation. After such an event, residents take stock of their transformed landscape and environment, deciding to remain, rebuild, or move, while ecological communities restructure and regrow. These combined social and ecological responses to wildfire may present a ‘hot moment’ or ‘window of opportunity’ where governments, communities, and residents can take action to reduce the future exposure to disaster.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers, convened by CBI’s Dr. Alexandra Syphard, Dr. Miranda Mockrin from Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service and Dr. Van Butsic, from the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management at University of California, Berkeley, are examining the question “Do wildfires lead to transformative adaptation, reducing future wildfire risk or do they lead to entrenchment, as residents and institutions re-create hazard-prone environments?”

To examine this question, they will review national data of post-fire housing change (rebuilding, sales, new development, land subdivision) and investigate how social and ecological settings and impacts, as well as event characteristics, influence subsequent housing and ecological trends. They will also determine, at the household scale, how changes in housing patterns relate to the post-wildfire ecological setting and socioeconomic characteristics, determining adaptation or entrenchment.

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