USFS analysis: Wildfire risk greater than previously thought

By Avery Ellfeldt | 05/31/2024 06:14 AM EDT

The Forest Service model analyzes conditions only for 15 recent years instead of 34 years to reflect climate change “more accurately.”

A Forest Service photo shows wildfire in southern Oregon in 2021.

A Forest Service photo shows wildfire in southern Oregon in 2021. A new Forest Service analysis shows expanded wildfire risk in Oregon and much of the U.S. U.S. Forest Service via AP

Wildfires threaten nearly one-third of U.S. residents and buildings, according to a new government analysis that suggests the risk is greater than previously known.

The Forest Service, working with Montana researchers, took a new approach to measuring wildfire risk and limited its historical analysis to the 15 years between 2004 and 2018. A previous analysis considered conditions over 34 years ending in 2012.

The narrower and more recent time frame aims to focus on a period during which climate change has notably affected atmospheric conditions and led to intensifying heat, drought and wildfire.


“We’re more accurately reflecting climate changes that we’ve seen in the last few years,” said Kelly Pohl, associate director at the nonprofit Headwaters Economics, which released the findings with the Forest Service and Pyrologix, a wildfire risk modeling firm.