Wildfires are both dangerous and costly, yet people continue to build in wildfire-prone areas. This poses challenges for governments and planners, who must decide whether to permit development in such areas and how best to design developments that are allowed. This report explores both issues, outlining how knowledge of wildfire risks can be incorporated into comprehensive planning and identifying best practices for development in at-risk areas.
About the Authors
Mr. Schwab joined the American Planning Association in November 1985. Originally the assistant editor of Planning, APA's monthly magazine, he joined APA’s research department in August 1990. He serves as the co-editor of a monthly publication, Zoning Practice. He is the Manager of APA’s Hazards Planning Center in the Chicago office. Mr. Schwab is currently managing three FEMA-funded projects for the Hazards Planning Center. The first two are Subdivision Design in Flood Hazard Areas, which will result in a PAS Report in September 2016; and the Planning Information Exchange, a series of peer-exchange webinars on hazard mitigation planning. Both involve the Association of State Floodplain Managers as a partner organization. The third began in October 2015, Innovations in Planning and Public Engagement for Local Resilience, and involves University of California-San Diego, Placeways LLC, and National Charrette Institute as partners. He is also currently involved in two NOAA-funded projects. One is nationally focused with the Association of State Floodplain Managers as the lead partner; it aims to help communities incorporate climate data into capital improvements planning. The other is led by APA, with Jim as the project manager, and is focused on the Great Lakes, with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the University of Illinois as partners; its purpose is to work with pilot communities in metropolitan Chicago on incorporating climate data into comprehensive plans and capital improvements programs. Both started in 2016. Mr. Schwab was the project manager for “Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation,” an ambitious effort funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to completely rewrite Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Redevelopment (1998), which APA produced under a cooperative agreement with FEMA. This effort included substantial multimedia web tools including the Recovery News blog and a series of briefing papers. Mr. Schwab was also project manager and general editor for the FEMA-funded APA Planning Advisory Report, Hazard Mitigation: Integrating Best Practices into Planning, released in May 2010. He was the general editor and project manager for Planning for Drought, a PAS Report released in January 2014 and produced under a subcontract with the University of Nebraska’s National Drought Mitigation Center. Under an APA subcontract with the Association of State Floodplain Managers, he has also been involved in a project providing training and online resources to communities affected by Great Lakes coastal hazards. Mr. Schwab was the sole author of two PAS Reports in the 1990s, Industrial Performance Standards for a New Century and Planning and Zoning for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. He served as the project manager for a FEMA-supported project in which APA has developed training for planners on the planning provisions of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, and for the Firewise Communities Post-Workshop Assessment. With Stuart Meck, he co-authored the 2005 PAS Report, Planning for Wildfires. He was also the principal investigator and primary author of Tribal Transportation Programs, produced for the Transportation Research Board. He was the project manager and general editor for the PAS Report, Planning the Urban Forest: Ecology, Economy, and Community Development, released in January 2009, and led the subsequent development of a training workshop based on that report, with a matching grant from the U.S. Forest Service. Finally, Mr. Schwab is APA’s lead representative for its partnership with NOAA’s Digital Coast. Mr. Schwab has worked overseas several times on hazard-related planning: in the Dominican Republic overseeing site planning training in 2001, in Sri Lanka following the Indian Ocean tsunami, speaking at a disaster recovery conference in Taiwan in 2006, as a Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Advanced Engineering in New Zealand in 2008, and speaking in May 2013 at a European Union conference on cities and climate change in Venice, Italy. Mr. Schwab is also the author of two books. The first, Raising Less Corn and More Hell: Midwestern Farmers Speak Out, was published in 1988 by the University of Illinois Press. It is an oral history of the farm crisis that affected the Midwest during the 1980s. The second, Deeper Shades of Green: The Rise of Blue-Collar and Minority Environmentalism in America, was released by Sierra Club Books in the fall of 1994. He is presently developing plans for a two-book series about the 1993 and 2008 Midwest floods.
My website: http://bloustein.rutgers.edu/meck/
Table of Contents
1. Wildfires as a Planning Priority
Where to Build and How • Why Planning Matters • Trends in WUI Development • Why People Live and Build in the WUI • Federal Initiatives • The Impact of Firewise
2. Historical Overview of Wildfires in the U.S.
Early History of the Frontier • The "Great Barbecue" • The War on Fire • Modern Development of WUI
3. The Science of Wildfires
The Ecological Role of Fire • What Is Natural • The Physics of Wildfires • Implications for the Built Environment
4. Wildfire Planning and Regulation: Examples from the Field • Comprehensive Plan Elements and Local Specific Plans • Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Provisions, Including Models
5. Big Issues in Planning for Wildfires
Influencing Perceptions and Attitudes • Factors Influencing Behavior • Institutional and Legal/Political Barriers • Three Strategies for Dealing with Development in the Wildland-Urban Interface
Appendix A. Glossary of Terms
Appendix B. List of References and Contacts
Appendix C. Bibliography
Appendix D. Fire Danger Rating System
Appendix E. Fire Hazard Severity Form
Appendix F. American Planning Association Growing Smart
SM Model • Statute for a Natural Hazards Element of a Comprehensive Plan