NPR

Rebuilding After A Wildfire? Most States Don't Require Fire-Resistant Materials

Homeowners are rebuilding after wildfires, but many won't be required by governments to use fire-resistant materials. Without such improvements, communities face harm again with the next fire.

After record-breaking wildfires this year, thousands of people across the West are still clearing piles of charred debris where their homes once stood in the hope of rebuilding their lives.

With climate change fueling bigger, more destructive wildfires, rebuilding offers an opportunity to create more fire-resistant communities by using building materials that can help homes survive the next blaze.

But most states don't require rebuilding with fire-resistant materials, an NPR analysis has found. While California has mandated wildfire building codes for more than a decade in high risk areas, other states have struggled to approve comprehensive rebuilding codes. In Oregon and Colorado, efforts faced stiff and ultimately successful opposition from home builders associations.

Now, despite recent megafires, most property owners in Western states are not required to use materials like fire-resistant roofing or siding when they rebuild, which could slow the spread of wildfires or stop a house from igniting in the first place. As a result, current homeowners and hundreds of thousands new ones who move into risky areas could be left vulnerable to homelessness or harm while the risk of wildfire, driven by climate change, continues to mount.

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