Protecting a Community from Wildfire with Progressive Land Use Planning
As the Sierra Nevada town of Paradise rebuilds after the devastating Camp Fire of 2018, the community has an opportunity to incorporate strategies to increase its resilience to fire and climate change, enhance the safety and well-being of its residents, and at the same time care for the surrounding natural areas that make it a beautiful place to live.
CBI had the chance to help Paradise seize this opportunity when The Nature Conservancy and Paradise Recreation and Park District asked us to help them explore community design principles that could provide all of these benefits. The CBI team created models of “Wildfire Risk Reduction Buffers” between the structures and the wildlands to reduce exposure of homes to wildfire risks. These buffers, which can be made up of parkland, orchards, and other low fire-risk land uses, can buffer homes from ignitions by wind-driven embers while also providing strategic refuges for escape from fire and open space for fire-fighters to stage their battles against future wildland fires.
The team combined spatial data about the landscape with local knowledge to prioritize locations for fire risk-reduction and analyzed ignition risks and co-benefits with and without the buffers. The resulting maps illustrate the exciting potential for locally-focused fire resilience partnerships to make a real difference in the town’s future. By promoting progressive thinking about the role of land use planning, the community of Paradise is changing its approach to living with fire and providing a model for California’s fire-prone communities.