Becoming a fire-adapted community that can live with wildfire is envisioned as a continuous, iterative process of adaptation. We combined national and case study research to examine how experience with wildfire alters the built environment and community- and government-level wildfire mitigation, planning, and regulations. By tracking changing in buildings post-fire (2000-2013) nationally we found that rebuilding was relatively low within several years of a fire incident, however, new development often continued. Studies of policy change revealed that for some communities, the fire was a focusing event that led to changes in regulations or planning (for example, modifying building codes or creating a CWPP). In other communities, destructive fire did not spur adaptation through changes in governmental policy. In some communities, local government officials thought current policies were effective and factors beyond their control such as extreme weather were to blame for structure losses In other cases, wildfire losses were accepted as a risk of living on the landscape, considered an isolated incident that affected few or was unlikely to be repeated, or enacting regulations was seen as incompatible with local norms and government capacity. We conclude that adaptation to wildfire through WUI regulations depends on multiple factors, including past experience with fire and the geographic extent and scale of the fire event relative to the local community and its government. While communities did not often pursue changes in WUI regulations, experience with wildfire was frequently cited as the impetus for other adaptive responses, such as improving emergency response or fire suppression, and expanding education and interaction with homeowners, such as Firewise programs or government support for fuel mitigation on private lands.
Public Perspectives of Fire Management
Wildland Urban Interface