This report, undertaken by CCST and made possible with support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, summarizes the state of knowledge regarding wildfire losses and their associated costs across key sectors. It challenges the assumptions underlying current fire management policies and proposes a novel framework for understanding the total cost of wildfire in California.
The results of this study suggest opportunities for policymakers to improve the effectiveness of wildfire management in California by enabling regional approaches, increasing investments in mitigation and resilience strategies, and accounting for the cumulative public health impacts of exposure to multiple fire events—including the interacting effects of wildfire smoke and COVID-19. In delivering a comprehensive framework to assess wildfire costs in California, the study finds that a full statewide calculation of wildfire costs is not possible with currently available data. Furthermore, the study finds that the costs associated with unquantified categories of loss (e.g., health impacts, loss of ecosystem services) likely exceed the reported costs. A more accurate accounting may result in more than double the currently reported costs.