Summary: Wildfire Costs, New Development, and Rising Temperatures

This summary highlights the major research Headwaters Economics has conducted concerning controlling fire suppression costs, state case studies, and the growth of homes in the WUI.

  • A study on why wildfires are becoming more severe and expensive, and how the protection of homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface has added to these costs.
  • A White Paper with nine solutions for controlling the pace, scale, and pattern of future development in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI).
  • Using land use planning to reduce risk as wildfires increasingly threaten urban area.
  • Two sets of interactive maps that show which communities have been threatened by wildfire and the potential for new home development in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) at the county and state level.
  • State-specific research on the impact of new homes and temperature change on wildfire suppression costs.

This page summarizes research by Headwaters Economics on the rising costs of wildland fires in the West. We have done extensive analysis in several areas:

Why Wildfires Are Becoming More Expensive

Wildfires are getting larger and causing more damage. Headwaters Economics produced this report as part of our long-term commitment to better understand and address why wildfires are becoming more severe and expensive.

The report also describes how the protection of homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) has added to these costs and concludes with a brief discussion of solutions that may help control escalating costs. We worked with Ross Gorte, Ph.D., to produce the report. Gorte, a retired Senior Policy Analyst at the Congressional Research Service, is now an Affiliate Research Professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Wildfire threat and protection costs are likely to rise because of climate change and continued home development. Currently, the majority of private wildlands are undeveloped; only about 16 percent of the WUI in the West is now developed, and the remaining 84 percent is available for development. The potential development of these lands is a state and local responsibility, but their development would significantly increase the federal cost of wildfire protection.