Climate Change: Wildfires

Our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and resulting climate change are leading to higher temperatures, record-setting heat waves, and drier and more arid conditions in the West. These conditions, matched with underfunded forest management, outdated land use practices, and more people living in fire-prone areas have led to catastrophic wildfires that affect more people. Almost 59,000 wildfires burned over 7 million acres in 2021, and more than 10.3 million acres burned in 2020.

These conditions have severe consequences on public health and access to services, job security, and economic productivity. Latino communities are more vulnerable to experiencing these wildfire impacts, and Latino voters are not only aware of these impacts, but are ready for Congress to take action to address climate change, provide more funding for forest management, and ensure communities have access to the services they need to respond to wildfires.

Why is this important to Latino communities?

Latino Health

  • Wildfire potential correlates with places with high Latino populations, in part because of the affordable housing crisis - homes are cheaper in wildfire-prone areas. Latinos are twice as likely to be affected by wildfires than others in the U.S. Socioeconomic vulnerabilities and lack of resources turn hazards into disasters and drastically reduce the ability for these communities to prepare and recover from wildfires.
  • Latinos have the highest uninsured rates in the United States - 52% of Latinos do not have private insurance coverage. This means Latinos are less likely to have access to healthcare services to prevent and treat health threats caused by wildfires and smoke.
  • The poverty rate among Latinos in 2020 was 17.0%, compared to the national poverty rate of 11.4%. This means that 1 in 6 Latinos do not have the economic resources to prepare, adapt, or cope with health issues associated with wildfires and poor air quality.
  • Low-income Latino communities are not only exposed to higher temperatures and wildfire risk, but also worse air quality due to smoke.
  • 12% of Latinos do not have access to a car, almost double the percentage of their white counterparts, and 27% of Latinos use public transit on a daily or weekly basis. Latinos are more likely than any other group to live in a multigenerational household with young and/or aging family members who can’t drive themselves to school, work, healthcare and other services. This limits their ability to prepare and respond to wildfires.

Latino Jobs & Economy

  • The effects of wildfires range from access to emergency response, disaster relief, and physical and mental health services to job security, economic productivity, land use planning and affordable housing.
  • Latinos make up the highest percentage of natural resource laborers. These high rates of outdoor employment leads to higher risks by Latino workers of being exposed to unhealthy levels of smoke and air pollution during and after a wildfire.
  • Certain factors create additional barriers and challenges for Latino communities before, during, and after a wildfire. These may include distrust of government agencies, emergency responders or service providers; language and cultural barriers; access to information and alerts; or socioeconomic factors, such as access to transportation, adequate and affordable housing, income, and eligibility for insurance or government services.

Latino Public Opinion

  • 69% of Latino voters in the West agree that wildfires are more of a problem than ten years ago.
  • 84% of Latino voters are concerned about more frequent and severe wildfires.
  • 80% of Latino voters support updating zoning and building codes for new homes and development near forests or other fire-prone areas so homes are farther from or can better withstand fires.
  • 91% of Latino voters agree with increasing the use of controlled burns to safely reduce the amount of fuel for fires.

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Hispanic Access Foundation connects Latinos and others with partners and opportunities to improve lives and create an equitable society.

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