More than three times as many houses and other structures burned in Western wildfires in 2010-2020 than in the previous decade, and that wasn’t only because more acreage burned, a new analysis has found.
More than three times as many houses and other structures burned in Western wildfires in 2010-2020 than in the previous decade, and that wasn’t only because more acreage burned, a new analysis has found. Human ignitions started 76 percent of the wildfires that destroyed structures, and those fires tended to be in flammable areas where homes, commercial structures, and outbuildings are increasingly common.
“Humans are driving the negative impacts from wildfire,” concluded lead author Philip Higuera, a fire ecologist and professor at the University of Montana, who wrote the assessment during a sabbatical at CIRES and CU Boulder. “Human fingerprints are all over this—we influence the when, the where, and the why.”
Most measures of wildfire’s impact—expansion of wildfire season into new months, and the number of structures in flammable vegetation, for example—are going in the wrong direction, Higuera said. But the new finding, published February 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences-Nexus, also means that human action can lessen the risks of wildfire damage.
Read more at: University of Colorado at Boulder
The 2021 Boulder 2700 fire near Polson Montana, left burned-out vehicles and destroyed homes. (Photo Credit: Philip Higuera)