Measuring mental health outcomes in Walbridge Fire 2020




wildfire, mental health, loss, disaster, community resilience


In August 2020, Sonoma County experienced the Walbridge Fire (part of the Lake–Napa Unit Complex Fire). Following the repopulation of evacuated residents, the Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management circulated a Resident Experience Survey to learn from stakeholders how the fire impacted their lives, how emergency response to the fire met their needs, and to gather information to improve future disaster response activities. A total of 1,583 English and 55 Spanish surveys were completed. This paper describes a mixed-method research using survey data to understand broader mental health implications of the Walbridge Fire on residents. This study developed a quantitative Global Worry Model to explore which survey factors contributed to poorer mental health outcomes. Quantitative analytics looked at how language, loss, emergency alerts, and family size were measured for significance with a survey reported on a mental health questionnaire. Open-ended survey responses surrounding previous disaster experience, pre-existing health issues, and environmental conditions (smoke and the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic) were contributory to responder’s stress and anxiety. Final data analysis concluded that those who faced immediate loss presented with significant self-declared stress and anxiety.

Author Biographies

Laura McCombs, MPH, RDH

Department of Emergency Management, Benedictine University, Rohnert Park, California

Nancy A. Brown, PhD

Sonoma County Department of Emergency Management, Santa Rosa, California


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How to Cite

McCombs, L., and N. A. Brown. “Measuring Mental Health Outcomes in Walbridge Fire 2020”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 22, no. 3, May 2024, pp. 327-44, doi:10.5055/jem.0828.