More homes near forests drive up wildfire costs for taxpayers

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Article date: 
20 May 2014
Article category: 
Our American Future
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Communities that spring up in Colorado's many forests and mountain ranges are sanctuaries for people who are sick of traffic and urban congestion, but they also force firefighters to spend a lot of their thinly stretched resources to protect homes cropping up next to dense, flammable vegetation, experts say.

Colorado has more homes in fire-prone areas than any other state except California and Texas, and this increasing development near wilderness partially explains Uncle Sam's growing fire-suppression costs, experts say.

Suburbia's decades-long encroachment into forests is sparking fresh concern because the blazes are getting bigger, deadlier and costlier to combat due to hot and dry conditions scientists attribute to climate change.

The [taxpayer-funded] federal government is spending more to hire additional firefighters and deploy more helicopters, fire trucks, airplanes and other equipment to protect homes in "wildland-urban interfaces," experts say...

Ray Rasker, executive director of Headwaters Economics, an independent research group in Bozeman, Mont., said the federal government can't tell developers where to build -- that's up to local governments -- but is obligated to spend whatever it takes to fight wildfires and protect property...

Earlier this month, the Obama administration predicted it will spend as much as $2.4 billion this fiscal year to fight wildfires. That's almost three times more than what it cost a decade ago, Rasker said. Meanwhile, the number of people moving to wilderness communities has also tripled, he said...

According to the International Association of Wildland Fire, federal, state and local taxpayers together pay about $4.7 billion a year for wildfire suppression.

The costs began rising sharply beginning in 1990 as developers built homes, subdivisions and entire communities on nearly 2 million acres of wilderness a year, the group said. Nationwide, 38,600 homes were destroyed by wildfires in the first 12 years of this century, going from 861 in 2000 to 4,244 in 2012, the group said.

A total of 373,600 homes in Colorado were at "high" or "extreme" risk for wildfires based on 2010 Census data, according to Verisk Insurance Solutions, which conducts risk assessments for the property and casualty insurance industry. Nearly 2 million homes in California and 1.3 million homes in Texas were in a similar situation. Washington (163,400) and Idaho (160,800) made up the top five states with the most homes carrying the highest fire risk...



A consequence of unending population growth and overcrowding is that people are moving out of congested cities. This is facilitated by a growing infrastructure - including the internet. 

Congress is to blame for America's unending population growth. American women voluntarily achieved replacement-level fertility (2.1 children per woman) in 1972. Yet mass immigration is driving US population to double within the lifetimes of children born today.

More information:

Environment and the consequences of immigration-driven population growth

Population Driven to Double by Mass Immigration