I was reading an article ("Spark and Sprawl") by Stephen Pyne in Forest History today, and it got me thinking about unintended consequences of the housing boom. Pyne argued that we will likely see the current cycle of massive wildfires continue so long as "â€¦the baby boom cashes out on suburban housing and some fraction of them seek retirement homes in the [wilderness/urban interface]-zone."
It’s a great point, and an overlooked consequence of both the housing boom and bust. We introduced human ignition sources in large numbers into wilderness areas by building pell-mell over the last decade, and the result, unsurprisingly, was conflagrations, especially in California and Nevada.
Check the following figure comparing wildfire acreage and U.S. housing prices since 1960 to see the relationship:
A textbook example of unintended consequences: New home construction leads to wilderness ignition sources, which leads to wildfires. Will the reverse hold true? It will be interesting to watch over the next few years.