Wildfire Risk and Self-Protective Investment
Like other climate-related catastrophes, the occurrence of severe wildfires is growing throughout North America. This escalating risk can be mitigated through efforts by property owners to manage vegetation and other flammable material near homes. Despite the cost-effectiveness of these investments, takeup is low. Local governments are increasingly deploying information and incentive programs to encourage investment in “defensible space.” There has been little empirical validation of these programs or the underlying economic frictions that limit takeup. Experimental evidence in this setting will be invaluable for guiding adaptation to climate-related disasters. Given economic disparities in exposure to wildfire risk, this evidence will be especially impactful for low-income communities.
We propose to work with the Jackson County (Oregon) Fire Department and the Western Fire Chiefs Association to test interventions to encourage adoption of defensible space. We have also secured a partnership with a major provider of wildfire risk data that will help us evaluate the success of the intervention. In addition to identifying effective interventions, the study will yield evidence on the economic mechanisms behind observed underinvestment in self-protection. Upon completion of this pilot project, we should be well-positioned to implement a full-scale experiment across a larger area of the West.