Wildfires can be detrimental to urban and rural communities, causing impacts in the form of psychological stress, direct physical injury, and smoke-related morbidity and mortality. This study examined the area burned by wildfires over the entire state of California from the years 2000 to 2020 in order to quantify and identify whether burned area and fire frequency differed across Census tracts according to socioeconomic indicators over time. Wildfire data were obtained from the California Fire and Resource Assessment Program (FRAP) and National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), while demographic data were obtained from the American Community Survey. Results showed a doubling in the number of Census tracts that experienced major wildfires and a near doubling in the number of people residing in wildfire-impacted Census tracts, mostly due to an over 23,000 acre/year increase in the area burned by wildfires over the last two decades. Census tracts with a higher fire frequency and burned area had lower proportions of minority groups on average. However, when considering Native American populations, a greater proportion resided in highly impacted Census tracts. Such Census tracts also had higher proportions of older residents. In general, high-impact Census tracts tended to have higher proportions of low-income residents and lower proportions of high-income residents, as well as lower median household incomes and home values. These findings are important to policymakers and state agencies as it relates to environmental justice and the allocation of resources before, during, and after wildfires in the state of California.
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