As more regions of the country experience warmer and drier conditions, experts warn that wildfires will be larger and more frequent and not just in the western states. More than a third of new homes built nationally since 2000 are in what researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison classify as wildland-urban interface, or WUI. These are areas where home and wildland meet and where the stakes and potential for wildfires are higher.
The demand to build in the wilderness is driven by homebuyers looking for idyllic and pastoral places to live away from metro areas. Using government databases and satellite images, the Center for Investigative Reporting found that 8.5 million more homes are in WUI areas since 1900, and more than half of wildfires between 1992 and 2013 occurred in southern states, including Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. As climate change brings warmer and drier conditions to more regions, experts worry local fire departments lack the specialized training and equipment to battle wildfires.