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Building Houses in Wildfire Country

Developments boom in high risk fire areas, even as fires continue to increase in duration, severity and damage.
September 28, 2016, 10am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Smoke from the Loma Prieta Fire, on September 27, 2016.

Americans continue to move west, and not just anywhere in the west. Americans continue to move to wildfire country. Even as damage from wildfires affects more American homes every year demand for these homes continues to grow according to Chris Kirkham of the Wall Street Journal. The 2010s have seen a huge jump in the number of homes damaged by fire and the costs of firefighting.

Some question the wisdom of these developments, but the article points out that one possible cause of the problem may be a misalignment of incentives, "While decisions on where to develop are made at the local level by private citizens and municipal planners, the costs of fighting fires are mostly picked up by taxpayers at the state and federal level."

Regardless of the cause development marches forward, Kirkham describes how "on the northern rim of Los Angeles, a developer is planning to build a 188-unit luxury community in one of the state’s highest-risk wildfire zones." These developments take place against the backdrop of California's now year-round fire season.

Developers counter that they can work with fire officials to build safely even in these high risk zones. The story quote Stephen Haase, senior vice president at Baldwin & Sons, a developer in San Diego "We have to live with and plan for fire. We think we can do so in a safe manner, and make sure it’s not a threat to the community."

Full Story:
Published on Monday, September 26, 2016 in The Wall Street Journal
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