International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Recovery and adaptation after wildfire on the Colorado Front Range (2010–12)

Miranda H. Mockrin A D , Susan I. Stewart B , Volker C. Radeloff B and Roger B. Hammer C

A USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station, 5523 Research Park Drive, Suite 350, Catonsville, MD 21228, USA.

B Department of Forest Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA.

C Sociology Program, School of Public Policy, 303 Fairbanks Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email: mhmockrin@fs.fed.us

International Journal of Wildland Fire - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF16020
Submitted: 5 February 2016  Accepted: 22 July 2016   Published online: 21 September 2016

Abstract

Following the loss of homes to wildfire, when risk has been made apparent, homeowners must decide whether to rebuild, and choose materials and vegetation, while local governments guide recovery and rebuilding. As wildfires are smaller and more localised than other disasters, it is unclear if recovery after wildfire results in policy change and adaptation, decreasing assets at risk, or if recovery encourages reinvestment in hazard-prone areas. We studied three wildfires on the Colorado Front Range from 2010 to 2012 that each destroyed over 150 homes, describing policy response and characterising the built environment after wildfire. In each location, we found some adaptation, through better-mitigated homes and stronger building and vegetation mitigation standards, but also extensive reinvestment in hazard-prone environments, with governmental support. Despite suggestions that disaster can lead to substantial policy change and elevate the role of land-use planning, we saw only modest reforms: local governments did not revise land-use regulations; a statewide task force considered but did not require standards for building and vegetation mitigation; and only one jurisdiction strengthened its building and vegetation mitigation standards. Experiences in Colorado suggest that time after wildfire either does not provide extensive opportunities for adaptation in the built environment, or that these opportunities are easily missed.

Additional keywords: communities, planning, post-fire impacts, risk, wildland–urban interface, WUI.


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