Giving Compass' Take:
- Here are insights from local leaders in Colorado who faced the Marshall Fire for how Lahaina communities can tackle wildfire recovery.
- Experts say that it can take years to recover fully from severe wildfires. How can donors help build equitable recovery plans?
- Read more on what recovery might look like for Hawaiian communities.
What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
It’s been more than three months since a wildfire devastated Lahaina, a historic Hawaiian town on the island of Maui. Recovery after such disasters can take years to decades and often leaves communities less equitable than before.
For the past two years, we’ve studied three Colorado communities’ recovery after the Marshall Fire—the most destructive wildfire in Colorado’s history. We understand there are key differences between Maui’s experience and Colorado’s—especially the incomprehensible loss of human life in Lahaina. Despite these differences, we believe several findings from our research, which included surveying more than 1,300 survivors and interviews with community leaders, will be useful for Lahaina—and other wildfire-affected communities—in the months and years ahead.
Equitable disaster recovery means allocating resources in ways that help all survivors recover regardless of their circumstances. Like all disaster recoveries, households affected by the Marshall Fire have recovered at different rates. Not surprisingly, homeowners with greater financial resources tend to be further along in the rebuilding process.
Before the Marshall Fire, 97 percent of homeowners had insurance compared with 70 percent of renters. And a year after the fire, renters were significantly more likely to be displaced from their home (62 percent) compared with homeowners (40 percent). Renters face other challenges too, with 63 percent of those still living in the same property as before the fire reporting that their landlord had raised their rent.
Local governments engage the public to help guide their recovery decisionmaking, yet recent studies show the information collected during public meetings tends to reflect the needs and priorities of older and more affluent residents. After the Marshall Fire, we found 36 percent of survey respondents attended a fire-related meeting, but only 23 percent of households earning less than $75,000 per year did. Similarly, 39 percent of homeowners reported attending a meeting, versus 14 percent of renters. Among the survey respondents who were 55 years old or older, 39 percent attended a meeting, compared with 37 percent of respondents ages 35–54 and just 20 percent of those ages 18–34.
Read the full article about wildfire recovery by Andrew Rumbach, Elizabeth Albright, Deserai Crow, Katherine Dickinson, and Courtney Welton-Mitchell at Urban Institute.