Even as fires rage across California, thousands of new homes are being built deeper into our flammable foothills and forests, as lethal as they are lovely. A recent surge in subdivisions in high-risk wildlands is putting more of us in harm’s way, say experts. For millennia, wildfires just burned trees; now they’re claiming homes, with heirlooms, pools, family photos, pets, cars and precious lives. “It’s the ‘expanding bull’s eye’ effect,” said geographer Stephen M. Strader of Villanova University, who tracks population growth in high-risk areas. “Cities are moving into regions where there were no people before. People and wildfires are coming together more often.” His major new analysis, published this spring in the journal Natural Hazards, found a 1,000 percent increase in the number of western U.S. homes at risk from wildfire over the past 50 years – from about 607,000 in 1940 to 6.7 million in 2010.
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