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Flame and Fortune in the American WestUrban Development, Environmental Change, and the Great Oakland Hills Fire$
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Gregory L. Simon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520292802

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520292802.001.0001

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Who’s Vulnerable?

Who’s Vulnerable?

The politics of Identifying, Experiencing, and Reducing Risk

Chapter:
(p.89) 5 Who’s Vulnerable?
Source:
Flame and Fortune in the American West
Author(s):

Gregory L. Simon

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520292802.003.0006

This chapter provides a more nuanced depiction of vulnerability in the Tunnel Fire area. The Oakland Hills like many suburban and fire-prone areas of the West comprises residents that may not appear at first glance to be very vulnerable. The oftentimes affluent nature of these communities raises questions about what it actually means to be vulnerable given the presence of vulnerability-offsetting resources (such as insurance); the fact that risks are assumed by homeowners when buying their homes; and the possibility for homeowners to see significant property value increases over time. In light of these circumstances it is not surprising that some hold a less than sympathetic view toward residents in fire-susceptible areas. The chapter argues for the presence of variegated vulnerabilities comprised in a landscape of residents, each with unique sensitivities, resources, finances, psychologies, and family histories. Interviews with residents and fire survivors shed light on diverse expressions of risk and loss that vary from one individual and household to the next. Efforts to trivialize or ignore these risks amount to bad political ecological analysis. The chapter also highlights precise ways affluent communities collectively leverage their financial privileges to minimize or even offset certain risks.

Keywords:   Oakland Hills Tunnel Fire, urban wildfires, fire risk, political ecological analysis, affluent communities

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