NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Government Policies Encourage Wildfire Risks

August 14, 2002

Fighting wildfires is a dangerous business and every summer thousands of firefighters are put at risk in Western states because government policies have increased the likelihood of fires.

  • Those misguided policies, like logging bans, have caused a buildup of tinder-dry brush in fire-prone areas.
  • Over the decades, government policies have subsidized the settlement of ever-increasing numbers of people in fire-prone canyons and brush lands.
  • Through home insurance, power line placement, road construction, land-tax policies and the absence of fire-conscious local zoning laws, people are building homes and settling in high-risk areas -- putting in jeopardy not only their own lives, but the lives of those who may someday be called upon to rescue them.
  • The rescuers and firefighters are being dispatched in aircraft that are sometimes older than those flying them, inviting further tragedy.

Experts are calling for comprehensive programs and policies at both the national and state level aimed at reducing the risk of fires before they start -- or at the very least stop subsidizing the urge to build in dangerous areas.

Source: Roger Kennedy (former National Park Service director), "Why the West Is Burning," New York Times, August 8, 2002.


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