Bob Berwyn has a nice post on the new Red Zone Report.
According to the report, about 32 percent of U.S. housing units and 10 percent of all land with housing are the wildland-urban interface. The growth of residential zones around fire-prone forests has resulted in huge budget challenges for the Forest Service. Between 2001 and 2010, fire suppression costs doubled to about $1.2 billion. Read the full report here.
Other costs include restoration, lost tax and business revenues, property damage and costs to human health and lives. As and example, the report cites the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire, which resulted in more than $2 million in flood damage and $20 million in damage to Denver Water’s supply system.
From the report:
In 2000, nearly a third of U.S. homes (37 million) were located in the WUI.
More than two-thirds of all land in Connecticut is identified as WUI.
California has more homes in WUI than any other State—3.8 million.
Between 1990 and 2000, more than 1 million homes were added to WUI in California, Oregon, and Washington combined.
WUI is especially prevalent in areas with natural amenities, such as the northern Great Lakes, the Missouri Ozarks, and northern Georgia.
In the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest, virtually every urban area has a large ring of WUI, as a result of persistent population growth in the region that has generated medium and low-density housing in low- elevation forested areas.
“The Wildfire, Wildlands and People report reminds us that people can and should take steps to protect their homes from wildfires,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Communities with robust wildfire prevention programs are likely to have fewer human-caused wildfires. In addition, fire intensity is dramatically reduced in areas where restoration work has occurred.”
Between 2006 and 2011, some 600 assessments were completed on wildfires that burned into areas where restoration work had taken place. In most of these cases, fire intensity was reduced dramatically in treated areas. Residents can reduce excess vegetation within and around a community to reduce the intensity and growth of future fires and create a relatively safe place for firefighters to work to contain a wildfire, should one occur.