The Wildland-Urban Interface

The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is the area where human communities meet natural habitats. Homes here area are at the highest risk for wildfire. In California, there are more than 11 million people living in the WUI (Martinuzzi et all 2017), which means more than a quarter of the state’s population is living in a high fire hazard zone. The WUI is expanding rapidly across the country, and as a result, wildfires are becoming more frequent due to human ignition and lives and property are at greater risk because of the difficulty fighting fires in these areas.

Wildfire preparedness is essential for people, communities, and homes in the WUI. This includes registering for warning systems, making evacuation plans, hardening homes and structures, and maintaining defensible space with wildfire resilient landscaping. It’s only a matter of time before natural areas will burn and fire fighters often face limitations in the WUI, meaning that protection from fires is not guaranteed.

Do You Live in the WUI?

Click here to explore a map showing the WUI, fire-risk, fire history, and many other interactive elements.

Living in the WUI also means you’re directly connected to California’s unique ecosystems. California is home to the most diverse plant life in the United States with more than 7,000 types of native plants, one-third of which occur nowhere else on earth. Common plant communities in Southern California include coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and oak woodland. By creating a wildfire resilient landscape with plants native to your area, you can actively support the health of the surrounding wildlands by creating wildlife habitat and preventing non-native invasive plants from escaping into the wild.

Check out our video, Properties in the Wildland-Urban Interface, where TPF’s Executive Director Evan Meyer shares how to keep your property protect with ecology-friendly practices for homes located in the WUI.

Radeloff, V. C., Helmers, D. P., Kramer, H. A., Mockrin, M. H., Alexandre, P. M., Bar-Massada, A., … Stewart, S. I. (2018). Rapid growth of the US wildland-urban interface raises wildfire risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(13), 3314–3319.

Martinuzzi, Sebastiín; Stewart, Susan I.; Helmers, David P.; Mockrin, Miranda H.; Hammer, Roger B.; Radeloff, Volker C. 2015. The 2010 wildland-urban interface of the conterminous United States. Research Map NRS-8. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 124 p. [includes pull-out map].

This program was made possible in part by Edison International.

Illustrations by Edward Lum.