Wildfires in the U.S. are getting bigger and lasting longer. Rachel Cleetus, a climate economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says climate change and policy decisions are making fires worse.


Cleetus: “Climate change is producing hotter and drier conditions… and we’ve had a past history of very aggressively suppressing wildfires, and this is combined with forest management practices to create a situation in many places where we have an over-accumulation of flammable fuel wood. Whenever there is a fire, the chances of it becoming a large fire are becoming higher. There’s more wood to burn.”

The cost of fighting fires has also increased, and not only because they are bigger.

Cleetus: “The other problem we have is we’ve got more homes being built in or near these wildfire-prone areas and that means the danger to people and the cost of fighting these wildfires, and the cost of recovering from them is also increasing.”

Cleetus says the growing problem of severe wildfires requires action to address the three driving factors: climate change, fire suppression, and building in high-risk fire areas.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Fires burn near homes in Portola Hills, Calif. (source: University of California-Berkeley).

More Resources
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Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...