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Wildfires: Risk and Hazard

  • By: Kevin Hyde
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Analysis of the threat, hazard, and risk relative to wildfire is a spatial problem: Where does a wildfire occur relative to resources valued by humans? In the natural or built environment? Wildfires burn uncultivated vegetation in natural environments, whether mountainous forests, rural woodlands, brush lands, or prairie grasslands. In common usage, the terms threat, hazard, and risk are often interchanged and confound understanding of the important distinctions between them.

Any wildfire may be considered to pose a threat, to present the potential to do harm. Threat refers to the source that could cause damage. A wildfire threat exists where heat from burning vegetation could ignite other combustible material regardless of whether burning that material would constitute a loss. Whether a wildfire poses hazard or risk ...

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