Building Better: What Determines Who Adopts Fire-Resistant Housing Materials in California?
32 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2022
Wildfires ravage communities, forests, and government budgets each year in the US. The risk of wildfires continues to evolve as climate change enables conditions that are hotter, drier, and conducive to more frequent and intense fires. It remains unclear to what extent public policy is nimble enough to respond effectively at the local, state, and federal levels. A patchy web of disaster resilience policies and building codes meant to “harden” structures, as a defense against wildfires, exist in some places to attempt to protect public safety, property, and forests. However, it is uncertain whether codes are enforced, if codes are enforced differently by local jurisdictions or states, and whether codes have an effect outside of enforcement areas. Here we derive empirical evidence from multivariate binomial regression analysis to predict whether homeowners’ adopt fire-resistant building materials following major policy changes and whether key spatial and socioeconomic characteristics help or hinder adoption as well. We find that homes built after California’s comprehensive building code change in 2008 and homes located in Firewise communities or wildland urban intermix (WUI) areas all exhibit strong, positive effect sizes for adopting higher levels of fire-resistant home building materials. Findings from this study may help to identify where public policy is making strides in wildfire resilience and where improvement and investment are needed.
Keywords: wildfire, wildfire adaptation, disaster resilience, wildland urban interface, building codes
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