During the summer of 2012, images of hillside homes engulfed in flames played on repeat on news stations across the country. In the foothills of Pikes Peak, the Waldo Canyon Fire burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 347 homes, and killed two people between June 23 and July 10, 2012. Catastrophic fires such as the Waldo Canyon Fire are increasingly common throughout the west, especially in the wildland urban interface (WUI). These mega-fires are far from the natural disturbances that occur in many Western ecosystems. Instead, they are the product of a century of federal fire suppression compounded by changing climatic conditions. This scenario is complicated by increasing development in the WUI, where houses literally add fuel to the fire . This research assesses the specific conditions that contributed to the production of vulnerability to the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Wildfires worldwide are increasing in intensity and frequency while more residents move into the wildland urban interface. Fires such as the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado emphasized this sad reality in June of 2012. Because of worsening conditions, many regions around the United States are exploring innovative policies to ensure residents are protected and the loss of structures is reduced. One such policy is the Prepare, Act, Survive approach developed by the Australians. Prepare, Act, Survive emphasizes mutual responsibility between residents and fire or land management authorities and encourages residents located in fire prone areas to prepare their property well before a blaze. Residents are then formally allowed to stay and defend their properties if they wish to do so or encouraged to leave well before the fire threatens them if they desire. This paper explores both the American Mandatory Evacuation policy and the Australian Prepare, Act, Survive approach. Finally, it predicts how many homes could have potentially been saved if residents had been allowed to stay and defend their property during the Waldo Canyon Fire.