High-End Real Estate Makes Wildfires Worse

In Colorado and the West, the most desirable real estate is also the most likely to burn, writes Michael Kodas.
August 8, 2012, 5am PDT | scottdodd
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"It's no surprise that people like to live near forests and mountains," writes Kodas, "but that's precisely where wildfires occur. And because those new residents naturally want to keep their homes safe, they demand that small, otherwise beneficial fires be put out if those blazes threaten their property, which causes forests to become unnaturally thick with unhealthy trees just waiting for a spark. And sparks are exactly what humans often provide."

"It's a vicious cycle: more building in the wildland urban interface [WUI], more property at risk, more firefighting, more fire-prone forests (and in the age of climate change, more hot, dry weather). All of which helps explain why, across the West over the last 20 years, fighting fires has gone from taking up 14 percent of the U.S. Forest Service's budget to almost half of it."

"'Everybody knows that firefighting costs are going up, and everybody knows the WUI has a lot to do with it,' says Ray Rasker, director of Headwaters Economics, an independent research group in Bozeman, Montana. According to the group's data, the U.S. government is spending as much as $3 billion a year to fight wildfires -- twice what was being spent 10 years ago. 'About a third of those costs are for defending homes,' Rasker adds."

Thanks to OnEarth

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Published on Tuesday, August 7, 2012 in OnEarth
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