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Wildfire risk and optimal investments in watershed protection

Posted date: April 22, 2014
Publication Year: 
Publication Series: 
Scientific Journal (JRNL)
Source: Western Economics Forum. 12(2): 19-28.


Following what was then one of the most destructive fire years on record, President Bush signed into law the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003. The law requires no less than fifty percent of all funds allocated for hazardous fuels reductions to occur in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), with the aim of enhancing the protection of homes and reducing the costs of fighting wildfire. Available resources, however, have not been able to keep up with the accumulation of fuels and a rapidly expanding WUI. In 2012, wildfires burned 9 million acres in 67,000 separate fires throughout the United States. Total acreage burned was roughly equivalent in size to the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined and was the third largest annual acreage burned since 1975. That same year, Colorado saw its two most destructive fires on record, and Oregon saw its largest fire in more than a century. Costs for fighting these fires totaled about $1.6 billion, in line with a twenty year trend of increasing costs of wildfire suppression (National Interagency Fire Center 2013).


Warziniack, Travis; Thompson, Matthew. 2013. Wildfire risk and optimal investments in watershed protection. Western Economics Forum. 12(2): 19-28.