"Roughly 20 percent of Coloradans -- 1 million people -- have chosen to live close to nature, surrounded by that wilderness high-risk space. But the same trees that give homeowners their seclusion also could incinerate their property.
That amplified fire risk, in turn, translates into higher suppression costs. Where firefighters might normally just let a fire go, they rush in to stop it if houses and people are in danger -- requiring costly maneuvering. "The more residents you have [in such areas], the more expensive the fire becomes," said Bret Gibson, chief of the Four Mile Fire Protection District.
Nearly half of the U.S. Forest Service budget has been consumed by fire suppression costs in recent years. People moving into high-risk wildland zones, decades of fire suppression policies, and climate change are the prime factors fueling those escalating costs.
But in Colorado, at least, the people who chose to live in homes abutting wilderness are not planning on surrendering the territory. In fact, the state's population is projected to blossom in the next 30 years -- with much of the growth expected to occur in those woodsy areas, according to the Colorado Statewide Forest Resource Assessment. "