Learning to Live with Wildfires

Strategies to protect communities and reduce long-term fire risk.

Research and Analysis 

Illustration of a firefighter running on a treadmill as a forest fire blazes in the background

We’re Stuck on a Wildfire Treadmill 

Cascadia is trapped in a wildfire catch-22: the more we suppress fires, the worse they get; and the worse fires get, the more we suppress them. There are no easy answers, but we could be doing a lot more to return beneficial fire to the land (like prescribed burns and other management tools) and to adapt our lives to increasing fire weather.  

Bumper-to-bumper traffic as evacuees flee the Creek Fire (source: Kilmer Media/Shutterstock.com).

The Best Wildfire Solution We’re Not Using  

It’s a dose of tough love, but the most important thing we can do to address the wildfire crisis is to stop building homes in fire-prone places. This article describes why and offers three policy ideas to guide growth to safer areas. 

Fire-hardened home with a still-green lawn surrounded by burned out forest

Uncontainable Wildfires are Inevitable. Community Destruction Is Not.  

At the same time, we can fire harden homes that are in fireplains, especially new homes for which the extra cost is often negligible. Beyond protecting lives and property, fire-hardened homes make it safer to use beneficial fire as a management tool. 

Side-by-side map showing the two different growth plans for Bend, OR -- one expanding into fireplains, and the other with infill.

How Land Use Laws Protect Against Wildfire: The Case of Bend, Oregon 

The city of Bend, in central Oregon, decades ago implemented growth management policies that turn out to have already slowed the wildfire treadmill. It’s an example other places could learn from. 

Forthcoming articles 

Envisioning Cascadia’s Wildfire Future 

What do we see when we game out the region’s various strategies for managing wildfires in a world with increasing fire weather?  Adding up the costs—and opportunities—for fuels reduction, fire hardening homes, diverting construction away from fireplains, and more, are we on a fire-smart path?

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