In 2018, the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise, California at an unprecedented rate. Officials had prepared an evacuation plan that required 3 hours to get residents to safety. The fire, bigger and faster than ever before, spread to the community in only 90 minutes.
As climate change intensifies, wildfires in the West are behaving in ways that were unimaginable in the past—and the common disaster response approaches are woefully unprepared for this new reality. In a recent study, a team of researchers led by the University of Utah proposed a framework for simulating dire scenarios, which the authors define as scenarios where there is less time to evacuate an area than is required. The paper, published on April 21, 2021 in the journal Natural Hazards Review, found that minimizing losses during dire scenarios involves elements that are not represented in current simulation models, among them improvisation and altruism.