An area where development (houses, roads, buildings) meets undeveloped areas at a well-defined boundary. Usually found where people have moved to "natural" or scenic settings, either away from urban centers or at the periphery of the suburbs (e.g., housing up against a regional park boundary or overlooking open space). In the Western United States, many of these wildland areas have a natural fire cycle, and may be especially flammable due to years of fire suppression policies.

Adding structures to wildland fuel areas makes fighting fires more complex technically (no bulldozing firebreaks in residential areas) and politically (fires along this boundary may fall under differing regional firefighting and natural resource protection jurisdictions: city, county, state, federal).

Considering moving to a forest? Or to a house overlooking acres of grassland? Be aware that the same zoning and planning decisions that went into making these properties desirable (private, scenic, etc.) can be hazards for both you and local firefighters: there may be limited access for emergency equipment due to width or grade of roadways; inadequate water supplies; trees and shrubs planted around structures (providing a bridge for fires to move from the wildlands to the homes); and lack of adequate escape routes.

Sources: local media coverage of the 1991 Oakland Hills firestorm;
National Wildfire Coordinating Group, <> (4 June 2001)
Western Governor's Association Policy Resolution 98 - 013

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