How quickly can communities recover from wildfires?

Samantha Fields Oct 1, 2021
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Firefighters battle the Thomas blaze in California in 2017. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

How quickly can communities recover from wildfires?

Samantha Fields Oct 1, 2021
Heard on:
Firefighters battle the Thomas blaze in California in 2017. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images
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California is one of the states at highest risk for wildfire damage. Partly because it has so many people, and so many homes. 

But a new report from CoreLogic finds that Wyoming and Idaho would likely take the longest to recover from a major wildfire that destroyed a lot of homes. What does it take to make communities more resilient?

There are a lot of different aspects to wildfire resilience, but “one of the concepts of resilience is to build back fast,” said Tom Larsen, who worked on the 2021 Wildfire Report at CoreLogic. And he said building back fast is a lot harder if a high percentage of homes burns down in a town or a state.

“Because that higher fraction of homes means that there will be more displaced people. So there would be more pressure on rentals and people needing short-term housing,” he said.

And in more rural states, there can be fewer temporary housing options.

That’s why Kimiko Barrett, the lead wildfire researcher at the nonprofit Headwaters Economics, said the most important thing communities can do to become more resilient is take preventative measures.

“So neighborhoods have adequate water supply, homes are hardened with space around them to reduce flammability to those structures,” she said. 

She said both the federal government and states need to be making a lot more of those investments in fire-prone communities.  

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