NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 25, 2007

The fires scorching Southern California are burning their way into fast-growing neighborhoods where thousands of new homes spring up each year in some of the West's worst wildfire hot spots, a USA Today analysis shows.


  • Since 2000, more than 55,000 people have moved to the neighborhoods touched by this week's fires, according to the analysis.
  • Many settled in some of the riskiest wildfire areas vulnerable to the types of firestorms now raging through pine forests and dry scrub from San Diego to the mountains north of Los Angeles.
  • Newcomers built at least 16,000 homes in the fire zone since 2000; though tough building codes helped most survive this week's onslaught, thousands more remain imperiled by a dozen fires burning in Southern California.


  • The population in those neighborhoods grew about 16 percent since 2000, double California's overall growth, according to Claritas, a marketing research firm.
  • Such growth helped push the federal government's firefighting costs above $2 billion last year, and in the most extreme cases, it can put homeowners and firefighters in danger.

"People moving to those places are putting themselves at increased risk," said Mark Rey, the Agriculture Department undersecretary who oversees the U.S. Forest Service.  "This is something we've let develop, and we'll have to deal with the consequences of that."

Source: Brad Heath, "Thousands moved into fire-risk areas," USA Today, October 25, 2007.

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