Summit County, USA — It’s common knowledge that anunchecked wildfire in local forests could result in serious risks to human livesand property.
U.S. Forest Service economist Mike Retzlaff is taking that conventional wisdomto the next level by trying to quantify the potential costs of a fire andlooking at land-use and development patterns in the wildland-urban interface (WUI).
Retzlaff, who will share his findings at the next meeting of the local pinebeetle task force, point out that a startling 96 percent of Summit County’sassessed value is located within the WUI red zones, along with all local waterand sanitation facilities.
And demographic trends are driving a growth of the red zones all across Coloradoand around the West, according to a recent study the Colorado State Universityresearchers.
As many as 12.5 million homes nationwide are at risk in high-severity wildfires,the report showed.
In Colorado, the red zone has expanded by 52 percent since 1970. And while thecommon perception is that red zone management is a Forest Service problem, thereport shows that 89 percent of it is dominated by private land owners.
The complete study was published online in the July 2007 issue of Landscape andUrban Planning.