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Rebuilding after wildland fire – new developments outpace rebuilding in burned areas

Posted date: August 12, 2015

Home rebuilt after wildfire (photo by P. Alexandre)
Home rebuilt after wildfire (photo by P. Alexandre)
FORT COLLINS, Colo., Mar.3, 2015 – When wildland fires destroy buildings, do people rebuild? Using aerial and satellite imagery, researchers have been tracking construction in areas burned by wildland fires and the findings reveal that new development outpaces reconstruction of burned buildings.

Scientists from the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain and Northern Research Stations, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Oregon State University collaborated to review fires occurring from 2000-2005 in the lower 48 states; and tracked the status of rebuilding for five years post-fire. The study shows that the number of buildings inside the perimeter five years after the wildfires was greater than the number of buildings before the fires. Most of these buildings were from new construction. The study also found that across fires, only an average 25 percent of structures lost to wildland fire are rebuilt within five years. Despite the demonstrated risk of losing buildings to fire, researchers found little evidence that homeowners/ communities adapted to fire by changing the locations of buildings, or by lowering rates of new development after the fire in the fire zone.

This paper titled Rebuilding and new housing development after wildfire was published in the International Journal of Wildland Fire and can be found online at

Percentage of burned, rebuilt, and new buildings within perimeters of fires that occurred between 2000 and 2005.
Percentage of burned, rebuilt, and new buildings within perimeters of fires that occurred between 2000 and 2005.

Related Publications

Alexandre, Patricia M. ; Mockrin, Miranda H. ; Stewart, Susan I. ; Hammer, Roger B. ; Radeloff, Volker C. , 2015

The Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) is one of seven units within the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development. RMRS maintains 14 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing parts of the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and the Great Plains. RMRS also administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges and watersheds and maintains long-term research databases for these areas. While anchored in the geography of the West our research is global in scale. To find out more about the RMRS go to You can also follow us on Twitter at




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National Strategic Program Areas: 
Wildland Fire and Fuels
RMRS Science Program Areas: 
Human Dimensions
RMRS Strategic Priorities: 
Human-Landscape Interactions
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