Reduce Wildfire Risks or We’ll Pay More for Fire Disasters

This Position Paper was published April 16, 2015

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The true cost of wildfires is much higher than the public is aware of, and much higher than currently accounted for by government assessments. These costs have increased significantly in the last decade, impacting taxpayers and multiple levels of government. The cost of wildfires also accrues over time — sometimes as much as a decade after the incident. Investments to mitigate the potential damage to communities and ecosystems from wildfire have not risen to meet these increasing costs.

Recent analysis of the direct, indirect plus long-term post-fire costs of wildfires in the United States, for example, show that the true cost that communities, businesses and governments actually pay can be from two to 30 times the amount of the official estimate of large wildfire costs.

The true costs of wildfires are more than we’re counting. Wildfire disasters are increasing in frequency scale and economic damage. When considered together, these factors support a fiscal logic for funding cost-effective mitigation activities — so we may manage our wildfire-impacted landscapes and communities before the fires become a disaster.

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