Fire & Economics
Widespread development and shifts from rural to urban areas within the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) has increased fire risks to local populations, as well as introduced complex and long-term costs and benefits to communities. We use an interdisciplinary approach to investigate how trends in fire characteristics influence adaptive management and economies in the Intermountain Western US (IMW). Specifically, we analyze area burned and fire frequency in the IMW over time, how fires in urban or rural settings influence local economies and whether fire trends and economic impacts influence managers’ perspectives and adaptive decision-making. Our analyses showed some increasing fire trends at multiple levels. Using a non-parametric event study model, we evaluated the effects of fire events in rural and urban areas on county-level private industry employment, finding short- and long-term positive effects of fire on employment at several scales and some short-term negative effects for specific sectors. Through interviewing 20 fire managers, we found that most recognize increasing fire trends and that there are both positive and negative economic effects of fire. We also established that many of the participants are implementing adaptive fire management strategies and we identified key challenges to mitigating increasing fire risk in the IMW.