MapLab: Why More Americans Are Moving Toward Wildfire

Smoke billowing from field

During the first year of Covid-19, the number of U.S. households moving into areas with a recent history of wildfire increased 21% over the previous year.

October 24, 2021
Marie Patino & Laura Bliss - Bloomberg

Climate change is making wildfires more frequent, severe and hard to predict — not to mention more costly, as governments, insurers and local residents pay to pick up the pieces after a blaze. Yet Americans are flocking to areas at high risk for burning, and the pandemic accelerated that trend: During the first year of Covid-19, the number of U.S. households moving into areas with a recent history of wildfire increased 21% over the previous year. Areas without that recent history saw net moves fall by 15%.

Those shocking statistics were among the many findings made by my colleague Marie Patino and me in our investigation of recent U.S. migration into the wildland-urban interface, or the edge between highly developed areas and flammable forests and mountains. Between affordability pressures and cultural ideals, our story explores the motivations for why so many people are settling there — in many cases, within the literal footprints of recent wildfires — as well as the staggering cost of this long-term trend. We paired the narrative with rich visuals, including photographs, data visualizations, and maps, with the help of our graphics colleague Jackie Gu.

Reprinted courtesy of Marie Patino, Bloomberg and Laura Bliss, Bloomberg



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