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Community wildfire resiliency

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Rebecca Miller
(Photo courtesy of Rebecca Miller)

Rebecca Miller

PhD '21
Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources

June 7, 2021

“I was first exposed to wildfires as a little kid in Orange County when recess was cancelled because of smoky days,” said Rebecca Miller, PhD ’21. “After seeing how communities across the United States were struggling to prepare for the impacts of climate change, I decided to apply for a PhD and luckily ended up at Stanford where I began studying wildfires in California.”

Miller has made it her mission to produce practical research that’s useful to policymakers and communities. While at Stanford, she focused on historical and current wildfire mitigation policies related to prescribed burns and construction codes across the state, including outlining a range of approaches to significantly increase the deployment of prescribed burns in California and potentially in other regions.

“Most recently, I’ve traveled across California talking to people in local communities affected by recent wildfires to learn about some of the best practices and challenges in wildfire recovery,” she said. “I conducted interviews following seven major wildfires from 2017 and 2018 to understand how local contexts influence disaster response and recovery, and also partnered with several communities as they’ve taken steps toward wildfire preparedness to protect their homes and communities.”

After graduation, Miller will be continuing her research as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Southern California’s West on Fire Project. Wildfires and their associated smoke will be among the most widely felt health impacts of climate change throughout the country, and the investigation of wildfire preparedness and mitigation are becoming vital academic disciplines.

“Both Stanford and USC are increasingly focusing on applied wildfire research, and I’m looking forward to bringing my experience both investigating and discussing wildfire resilience at Stanford to my new community at USC,” Miller said. “This new job will be an opportunity to compare how communities in different parts of California think about, prepare for, and recover from wildfires.”