Some impacts of climate change are easy to see, such as the severe erosion on the south shore due to recent storms, along with major flooding at various spots around the Island, in particular Five Corners.

Other environmental dangers, however, are less apparent to the casual viewer, and for local planners, that makes mitigating those risks all the more difficult. For Martha’s Vineyard Commission special projects planner Dan Doyle, wildfires rank at the top of that list.

“I think wildfires are one of the more unsung of the big hazards,” Mr. Doyle said. “It’s easy to think about this in a kind of a superficial way, and this is an attempt to complicate that thinking.”

To help increase awareness, Mr. Doyle recently released an article about the Dukes County Wildfire Protection Plan, available on the MVC website. The article condenses the 257-page plan into a format more digestible for the public.

“It tries to put it all in one place where it’s right at the fingertips of a user,” Mr. Doyle said.

Mr. Doyle feels that helping people become more familiar with the potential for wildfires on-Island is more important than ever, as changing local climate conditions elevate the risks. Drought conditions are expected to increase during the summer, making landscapes even more susceptible to fire. Already, the Island has experienced a growing frequency of smaller wildfires each year, he said, though local departments have been able to keep them under control.

“Every time one of these fires happens, it’s a roll of the dice,” Mr. Doyle said. “We’ve been fortunate in the past where we haven’t necessarily had the perfect storm.”

A particular concern, Mr. Doyle said, comes from the Island’s fragmented development pattern, where homes are often spread out and distributed among vast woodlands.

Much of the article focuses on ways to lessen the risk for private homes, listing ways that homeowners can create “defensible spaces” near the forest to protect themselves from wildfire. Clearing out brush, using fire-retardant building materials and creating a buffer between house and woodlands all can all help, Mr. Doyle said.

Ultimately, Mr. Doyle said, reducing wildfire risk on Martha’s Vineyard will require trade-offs. The improvement of accessibility on some of the long, dirt roads on Island, he said, is a key example.

“So many of these long dirt roads are one way in, one way out. It makes evacuation... a scary proposition,” he said. “We consider this part of our charm and character, but let’s at least be eyes wide open on what the trade-offs are.”

More information can be found at