Elderly people are especially vulnerable to wildfires both because of decreased mobility and geographic location, the LA Times reports. Most of the 85 deaths in the 2018 Camp Fire were people over 65. Rural areas most likely to be burned by wildfires supercharged by climate change tend to attract older people, in part because of generally lower living expenses.
“Whether you’re looking at wildfire frequency, or you’re looking at the area burned by wildfires, the proportion of elderly people increases in a fairly linear way as you get into census tracts of higher risk,” Shahir Masri, an environmental health scientist at UC Irvine, told the Times. More than one-quarter of the residents of Siskiyou County, California, where the McKinney Fire has burned over 60,000 acres, are over 65, compared to about 15% across the state. Beyond the acute risks of the flames themselves, wildfire smoke also poses especially high respiratory risks for seniors. (LA Times $; Climate Signals background: Wildfires)