Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

Barty Warren-Kretzschmar


Barty Warren-Kretzschmar


Richard E. Toth


Carlos V. Licon


Wildland fire is an important and complex issue, particularly in the fire-prone ecosystems of the Western United States. At the same time that the number of catastrophic wildland fires is increasing across the United States, more people are moving in to wildland areas growing the interface between urban and wildlands. Managing wildfire in the Western United States is becoming increasingly more complex and costly as growth and development continues to push the edge of municipalities into undeveloped wildlands. Communities in this wildland urban interface are exacerbating the problem of wildfire in the West.

With more people living in wildfire prone areas and changes facing our climate, the occurrence of catastrophic wildfire in the U.S., particularly in the West, is only expected to increase. It is unrealistic to rely on voluntary actions to address the problem of development in wildfire prone ecosystems. Greater understanding of the ways we can build our communities to live with wildfire and using this understanding to guide planning and design decisions will be necessary to improve community resilience to wildfire in the West. Planners and designers will play a key role because these professionals have unique opportunity to address development in areas at-risk of wildfire before the need or want for development occurs.

In order to improve the resilience of Western communities to wildfire, the current state of wildfire science and planning must be known to identify the gaps between best available science and practice and improve the development of communities at risk of wildfire. Therefore, the first objective of this study was to conduct a comprehensive literature review, and the second objective was to use key findings from the literature review to inform a framework to guide planning and design decisions in wildfire prone communities. The intent of the state of the art review was to provide a critical examination of both best available, peer-reviewed wildfire literature and the current strategies communities in the Western United States are employing to address the growing threat of wildland fire.

Knowledge of the benefits and limitations of the current state of community wildfire planning and design in the fire-prone ecosystems of the West helped identify where community resilience could be improved. Beneficial community wildfire planning and design strategies provided the foundation for a planning and design audit. The goal of this audit was to evaluate a community’s preparedness for wildfire, which was assessed based on reduction of losses to life and property. This audit was tested using two Western communities: one that successfully reduced its risk of wildfire and one that was unsuccessful. The wildfire planning and design audit provides a checklist for planners and designers to ensure future growth and development reflects wildfire risk.