Study Finds No Evidence Firewise Lowers Suppression Costs

Study finds no evidence of a relationship between wildfire suppression costs and Firewise participation, suggesting policies should focus on other solutions to lower future expenditures, such as preventing development in high risk areas.

  • Wildfires in the West are growing in size, length, and destructiveness, greatly increasing the risks to lives and property as well as the costs of suppression and recovery.
  • This research finds no evidence of a relationship between wildfire suppression costs and Firewise—which focuses on safety–suggesting that policies should focus on solutions that limit future development in high risk areas.
  • Headwaters Economics also interviewed 16 Incident Commanders of large and complex western wildfires. They believe Firewise does play a role to help increase firefighter safety and structure protection in existing communities.

firewsie home in blackened landscape
Wildfires in the West are growing in size, length, and destructiveness, greatly increasing the risks to lives and property as well as the costs of suppression and recovery.

The Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program often is mentioned as a potential remedy. However, Firewise focuses on increasing safety and was not designed to lower suppression costs.

Our research manuscript(PDF), “An Empirical Investigation of the Effect of the Firewise Program on Wildfire Suppression Costs,” finds no evidence of a relationship between wildfire suppression costs and Firewise participation.

This lack of evidence that Firewise reduces wildfire suppression costs suggests that policy makers attempting to address future costs are better served focusing on other solutions such as limiting future development in high risk areas.

As part of our research we interviewed(PDF) 16 Incident Commanders (ICs) of large and complex western wildfires. They believe that Firewise does play a role to help increase firefighter safety and structure protection in existing communities.