The study is by the think tank Headwaters Economics, based in Bozeman, Mont. Researchers looked at what are known as “firewise” communities. Rural homeowners are encouraged to do things like clear brush around their homes and replace wood shingles with a metal roof.
The idea is that these practices keep fire at bay and firefighters out of danger. Some policy makers hoped they would keep firefighting costs down as well.
Turns out, it may not do that last one. Ray Rasker is one of the report's authors. He says when a fire threatens a community, fire managers are going to fight the fire whether the community is firewise or not.
“They deploy the resources, whether it’s airplanes to do drops or helicopters or firefighters on the ground,” Rasker said.
Rasker says his findings suggest it would be more cost effective to limit development in highly fire prone areas in the first place.
The federal government is projecting firefighting costs to reach $1.8 billion this year, based on drought conditions in the West – particularly in California.
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