Who pays for fighting wildfires in the wildland-urban interface?

An article that appeared in the Missoulian and several other newspapers discusses research by Headwaters Economics about the costs of fighting wildfires in the wildland-urban interface. It includes some controversial quotes from a gentleman who is often sought by reporters when they need a quote about U.S. Forest Service fire management policies.

Below is an excerpt from the article. You will have to go to the Missoulian site to read the aforementioned quotes.

If Montana’s forest fringes continue filling with houses, wildland firefighting costs could double, according to a report by the Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics.

“Protecting homes is a major cost and safety issue in fighting fire,” said Headwaters author Chris Mehl. “But the real question is personal responsibility: Who pays for that? Right now, the federal government – the Forest Service, BLM or FEMA – pays for a disproportionate share of the cost of fighting fires and cleaning up afterward. States and municipalities pay a small share of the cost.

“The challenge is, if we keep building these homes in the wildland-urban interface, who should bear the cost? Will localities say we’re not willing to bear the cost and you landowners must bear more? We need to look at land-use planning.”


Thanks go out to Dick and Kelly.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.