Wildfires: Development and Temperature Impact Cost and Safety

Headwaters Economics has studied wildfires across the West, analyzing how more homes near forests and increasing temperatures will significantly increase future costs and safety risks.

Headwaters Economics has studied wildfires across the West, analyzing how more homes near forests and increasing temperatures will significantly increase future costs and safety risks.

The studies include:

  • A Montana report found that, statewide, protecting homes from wildfires costs an average of $28 million annually. If development near fire-prone forests continues, costs to protect homes likely will rise to $40 million by 2025. A 1º F increase in summer temperatures would at least double home protection costs.  Additional development and hotter summers combined could increase the annual cost to exceed $80 million by 2025.
  • Research in California’s Sierra Nevada found that rising average summer temperatures are strongly associated with an increase in acres burned. Within the study area, an annual increase in average summer temperature of 1º F is associated with a 35 percent growth in area burned.
  • An Oregon study found that a rise in average summer temperature of 1º F is associated with an increase of 420 wildfires–a large effect given that, on average, 1,800 wildfires burn in Oregon per year.

Headwaters Economics also has developed a white paper that explores ways to control the rising expense of firefighting.

KCRW Radio Interview

Hear an interview with our Director, Ray Rasker, on public radio’s To the Point (“Wildfires Rage across the West” July 2 2012):