A new report, “Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires,” published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that the number of wildfires will rise by 50% by 2100. The report also found that governments are not prepared for this reality, and that countries should adopt a ‘Fire Ready Formula’, where a radical shift in funding is needed for planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery instead of the current paradigm in which a majority of funding is allocated to response. While response is essential for public safety, governments must also invest in preparedness and risk reduction to create long-term resilience for wildfire-prone communities.
This report comes on the back of the worst drought in centuries across the western and southern regions of the United States. US Drought Monitor shows that 61% of the United States is currently experiencing some form of drought, with scientists saying it will take several seasons of above average precipitation to return to normal conditions.
Winter wildfires in Boulder County, Colorado and Santa Barbara County, California show how these dry conditions drive unusual wildfire activity outside the “typical” wildfire season. Other recent wildfires in South Korea, Florida, Turkey, and Argentina that threatened communities underscore how widespread the risk of wildfires truly is. It’s clear that governments across the world must begin to allocate the funding and resources the UNEP Report calls for in order to build wildfire resilient communities for a future in which wildfires continue to impact millions of lives every year.