Eighty-four percent of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by people, far surpassing the most frequent natural cause of wildfires, lightning, at 16%, according to The Burning Issue: Managing Wildfire Risk, from Marsh and McLennan Insights.
An increasing number of people are moving to fire-prone areas and areas previously considered wildlands, bringing with them an increased fire risk from “vehicles, arson, debris burning, discarded cigarettes, and unattended campfires,” some of the most frequent causes of ignition. “Sparks from infrastructure, such as railways and power lines, can also start fires,” the report says.
Preventing urban development in fire-prone areas would be the most effective solution to the increasing risk of wildfires, but it is unlikely due to population growth and housing prices, the report says. Instead, the report’s authors recommend adopting a risk-based approach to fire management by prioritizing investment in fire prevention, providing incentives for homeowners to reduce fire risk, increasing community resilience with education and economic incentives, and leveraging risk transfer solutions, such as CAT bonds and parametric insurance.