Recovery and Adaptation After Wildfire

Posted: June 15, 2017

Following the loss of homes to wildfire, local governments have a unique opportunity to guide recovery and rebuilding. However, little is known about recovery and adaptation after wildfire, in comparison to other natural hazards.

before and after a wildfire mitigation project

Colorado Springs, Colorado: In the before picture on the left, there is a lot of dead vegetation, overgrowth of grass, and the trees don’t have natural boundaries between them. All of these items are fuel for a wildfire. In the after picture, all of the dead vegetation and tall grass was removed, and the trees have natural boundaries. Steps like these will greatly reduce the spread of wildfires in the City of Colorado Springs.

Colorado suffered unprecedented losses from the Front Range wildfires of 2010–2012, with three fires that each destroyed 150 homes in three locations (Boulder County, Larimer County and City of Colorado Springs). In each location, government support for recovery was prominent, rebuilding was a fundamental part of recovery, and all government policy responses were quickly designed and implemented.

Because these areas already had wildfire-specific regulations that governed building materials and vegetation mitigation around homes, all rebuilt homes were built in a fire-adapted manner. However, there was also extensive rebuilding and reinvestment in hazard-prone environments.

Despite suggestions that disaster can lead to substantial policy change and elevate the role of land-use planning, only modest reforms were made.

Research takeaways

Experiences in Colorado suggest that time after wildfire either does not provide extensive opportunities for adaptation in the built environment, or that these opportunities are easily missed.

Mockrin, M. H., Stewart, S. I., Radeloff, V. C., & Hammer, R. B. (2017). Recovery and adaptation after wildfire on the Colorado Front Range (2010-12). International Journal of Wildland Fire, 25, 1144–1155. https://doi.org/10.1071/WF16020 & http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/52897

Mockrin, M. H., Stewart, S. I., Radeloff, V. C., Hammer, R. B., & Alexandre, P. M. (2015). Adapting to Wildfire: Rebuilding After Home Loss. Society & Natural Resources, 28(8), 839–856. https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2015.1014596 & http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/49020

Learn more about this research

These research articles are available through our library by contacting netclrc@fema.dhs.gov. Interested readers may be able to access the articles through their local library or through the publisher’s website.

This summary is for informational purposes only. More +
As such, the content does not reflect any official positions, policies, or guidelines on behalf of the sender, the U.S. Fire Administration, FEMA, DHS, nor any other federal agencies, departments or contracting entities. Similarly, this summary does not represent in any manner an official endorsement or relationship to any private or public companies, organizations/associations, or any authors or individuals cited or websites associated within the article.

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