The U.S. Forest Service conducted a study in 2009, predicting longer and bigger fire seasons throughout the West, and escalating costs fighting them. (Some think tanks claim that U.S. forest management policy, in particular the suppression of commercial logging, contributes to the wildfire menace.)
While the housing crash has slowed development, it’s virtually inevitable that it will pick up again, says Hartwig.
“The slowdown is just a hiccup," he says. "This, too, shall pass. People will discover that they still want to live out there.”
One way to reduce insurance and municipal costs is to build and landscape property to reduce the chances of a fire reaching a house, says Durland.
Over the long term, more homeowner may be forced by limited state resources — and a growing number of natural fires — to become more and more responsible for their own protection, he says.
"Ninety-eight percent of the time [firefighters] will be there," says Durland. What about that other 2 percent of the time? "You’ll have to prepare on your own," he says.