Only 11 percent of wildfire mitigation efforts undertaken as a result of a long-term federal fuels-reduction program to cut down catastrophic wildfire risk to communities have been undertaken near people's homes or offices in the past five years, says a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The analysis of the U.S. National Fire Plan shows that as more Americans live in or near fire-prone forests and more wildfires burn, most federally funded activities to reduce fuels and wildfire hazard have occurred far from the "wildland-urban interface," the area prioritized by federal wildfire policies. The result suggests that federal wildfire treatments are minimally effective at mitigating the threat of wildfire to homes and people in the western United States.
The study also suggests that future fire mitigation strategies should emphasize constructing and maintaining "firewise" homes, restricting the abundance and configuration of residential housing units near wildlands susceptible to fire, and improving cooperation among private and public landowners in implementing fire mitigation treatments and in paying for fire suppression.
There are reasons that more land near the wildland-urban interface might not have been treated, said Schoennagel. The study found that 70 percent of the wildland-urban interface plus a 1.5-mile community-protection zone surrounding it is privately owned, which limits the federal government's ability to treat the high-risk zone.
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