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UC Merced research shows wildfire risk increasing

POSTED August 3, 2012 10:42 p.m.

Californians could see the risk of losing homes to wildfires double in the next 40 years, according to new UC Merced research.

The report, drafted by UC Merced Professor Anthony Westerling, explores how climate change, the state’s projected population growth, urban and rural development, and land-use decisions will affect wildfire damage in the coming century.

Some tactics may reduce wildfire risk, such as concentrating growth in existing urban areas, educating homeowners about fireproofing practices, and constructing fire-resistant homes. But warming climates – and a growing number of people building homes in forested areas – are expected to fuel wildfire damage increases.

Though the report projects the greatest increase in wildfires in Northern California’s foothills and mountains, where danger could triple, and peripheral forested areas. But even coastal areas could be hit by wildfires, depending on how growth develops.

“Climate change is going to alter wildfire in our state,” Westerling said.  "How and where we build our homes, and how we manage the landscape around them, will shape our vulnerability to wildfire.”

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