By Addie Goss
Laramie, WY – A new report finds that one way to curb the cost of fighting wildfires by slowing home-building in areas prone to fires.
The report from Headwaters Economics in Montana finds that there is still a lot of room in the West for home-building in wild areas. And Headwaters Executive Director Ray Rasker says studies show anywhere from 27 to 95 percent of money spent on wildland firefighting goes to protecting homes. He says the homeowner isn't the only one who pays for it: "The people who build homes in fire-prone areas, and people who permit those buildings, county commissioners, local governments, aren't paying the full cost of protecting those homes. Most of that cost is paid for by federal taxpayer."
That's because much of wildfire fighting is paid for by federal land agencies. The Headwaters report suggests a radical way to cut these costs: reduce federal firefighting budgets. That would give local governments greater responsibility for fighting fires... which might induce them to block further development in fire-prone areas, through planning or zoning.