Wildfires are becoming more destructive. A new book says that’s not natural — and it’s not climate change

“Flame and Fortune in the American West,” a book by University of Colorado Denver professor Gregory Simon argues that increasing devastation by fire is a result of building homes and businesses in unwise places, rather than the easy scapegoat of ‘climate change’. An interview with the author discusses economics and development patterns that increase fire risk at the urban boundary:

“One objective of the book is to say, look, you can change land use planning in this way or that way, you can change the rules, you can change development to reduce fire risks and costs. But the other part of the book is concerned with how we talk about fire. I argue that when we suggest the problem is caused mainly by climate change and environmental factors we are actually exonerating — unfairly — the role of humans and city developers in creating these risks in the first place …  We keep spreading cities farther and farther out and I think that needs to be part of the discourse. Fires disasters aren’t natural, they’re very social.

I propose ways in which we can slow down this process of converting landscape, and adding risk to the landscapes and extracting profits from landscapes, by doing things like taking land out of availability through conservation easements or making development more costly, whether that means reducing fire protection services or reducing home ownership incentives.”