Protect Thy Neighbor: Investigating the Spatial Externalities of Wildfire Hazard Mitigation
David T. Butry, Geoffrey Donovan
Climate change, increased wildland fuels, and residential development patterns in fire-prone areas have combined to make wildfire-risk mitigation an important public policy issue. One approach to wildfire-risk mitigation is to encourage homeowners to use fire-resistant building materials and to create defensible spaces around their homes. We develop a theoretical model of interdependent household wildfire risk and examine its implications for a hypothetical fire-prone community. Results indicate that homeowners wildfire risk reduction actions can have significant, positive spillover effects on the wildfire risk of neighboring houses. In such cases, individual homeowners will engage in inefficient levels of wildfire-risk mitigation. We also demonstrate that wildfire risk reduction is most effective when concentrated in houses at the interface of communities and wildlands.