Wildfire, wildlands, and people: understanding and preparing for wildfire in the wildland-urban interface— a Forests on the Edge report

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Fire has historically played a fundamental ecological role in many of America's wildland areas.  However, the rising number of homes in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), associated impacts on lives and property from wildfire, and escalating costs of wildfire management have led to an urgent need for communities to become "fire-adapted." We present maps of the conterminous United States that illustrate historical natural fire regimes, the wildland-urban interface, and the number and location of structures burned since 1999. We outline a sampler of actions, programs, and community planning and development options to help decrease the risks of and damages from wildfire.

Key Points

  • People who live in the wildland-urban interface or WUI in particular may face increasing risk and property damage from wildfires of all sizes in coming decades. From 1990 to 2000 alone, the WUI increased by 18 percent and is expected to increase further in the years ahead
  • Homes and other structures across the United States, in a wide range of vegetation types from forests to shrub lands and grasslands, have already been lost to wildfire.
  • Numerous opportunities are available for planners, developers, and others to help WUI communities adapt to wildfire through education, planning, and mitigation activities that can help limit the number of ignitions, reduce flammable vegetation, create Firewise homes, and thereby establish fire-adapted communities.

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