Socio-Demographic and Health Vulnerability in Prescribed-Burn Exposed vs. Unexposed Counties

Prescribed wildfire burning is an effective tool used to restore ecological conditions. A recent study featuring PISC Senior Scholar and Past Trainee Michelle Kondo, PhD, evaluates the health impacts and potential vulnerabilities to communities exposed to prescribed burning. A county-level analysis from 2010-2019 was conducted nationally and regionally. On a national level, results indicate disproportionate fire exposure in rural areas with a high percentage of mobile home units and vacant housing. Regionally, non-white populations have the highest rates of exposure to prescribed burning. No disproportionate health burdens from prescribed burnings are evident in comparing exposed counties to unexposed counties. These findings suggest that prescribed wildfire burnings could have a disparate impact on the affected communities. However, when comparing exposed and unexposed counties, no health burdens caused by prescribed burning were found. The team concludes, “awareness of these patterns could influence both large-scale or institutional policies about prescribed burning practice.”

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