"Across the Western United States, wildfires are growing larger and more severe as global warming intensifies. At the same time, new data shows, more Americans than ever are moving to parts of the country more likely to burn, raising the odds of catastrophe.
In 2020, more than 16 million homes in the West were located in fire-prone areas near forests, grasslands and shrub lands, where the risks of conflagration are highest. That’s a rise from roughly 10 million homes in 1990, according to research published Friday from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the United States Forest Service.
“That’s the perfect storm,” said Volker Radeloff, a professor of forest ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who helped lead the research. “Millions of houses have been built in places that will sooner or later burn,” he said, even as climate change increases the risks of major wildfires across the West with extreme heat and dryness.
Nowhere is this dynamic more visible than in California, where eight of the largest blazes on record have struck in the past five years. The state now has roughly 5.1 million homes in what’s known as the “wildland-urban interface,” the term for areas, often on the outskirts of cities, where houses and other development are built near or among flammable wild vegetation."
Nadja Popovich and Brad Plumer report for the New York Times September 9, 2022.