The Rising Cost of Wildfire Protection

This report describes how the protection of homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface has added to wildfire costs and concludes with a discussion of solutions that may help control escalating risks and expenses.

  • The six worst fire seasons since 1960 have occurred since 2000. Bigger wildfire seasons are associated with several factors: biomass fuels have risen, changing climatic conditions, and an increase of homes near forest lands.
  • Wildfire protection costs have risen substantially. In the 1990s, the average cost of federal wildfire protection and suppression was less than $1 billion annually. Since 2002, the cost has averaged more than $3 billion per year.
  • Wildfire protection now accounts for nearly half of the Forest Service annual budget.

Monte Dolack wildfire painting
Wildfires are getting larger and causing more damage. Headwaters Economics produced this report (PDF) 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.