Resilient Design Resource Kits

Fighting Wildfire


Wildfire protection and suppression costs in the United States now surpass $3 billion annually (2018), having tripled in the last twenty years. Climate change, rising temperatures, drier conditions, and drought reduce moisture in the air and soil, and kill trees. These are all contributors to larger, more intense wildfires that pose grave threats to communities. Residential developments built in the wildland-urban interface (WUI)—transition zones where natural and built environments meet—are at even higher risk from wildfire.


Through an interdisciplinary, intersectional approach, the Institute brings together collaborations with environmental designers, natural and environmental scientists, technologists, policy-advisors, informal knowledge-holders, multi-level stakeholders, and other disciplinary experts, to explore, for example, wildfire patterns and impacts, and to create designs for defensible spaces, firewise landscapes, and prescribed burns. These efforts target specific geographic regions and look toward providing case reports, improving ecological integrity, and improving environmental health and safety, in order to help communities and other stakeholders prepare for a rapidly changing future.

Founded in Colorado, the Wright-Ingraham Institute regularly continues its work in the Western US, where climate change has precipitated an increased risk of more extreme wildfire events that continue to dramatically reshape the landscape, influence land use and conservation policies, and force relocation of entire communities.


This work can potentially lead to efforts that, for example, might contribute to:

  • Smarter land planning and management strategies.
  • Plans that protect and assist high risk residential areas at the WUI, where the built environment meets or intermingles with the natural environment and is at a greater risk of catastrophic wildfire.
  • Installing and monitoring remote sensors to track humidity, wind direction, temperature, vegetation density, and water availability.
  • Alerting communities to high risk fire periods.
  • Visualizations for comprehensive landscape-based wildfire protection strategies, such as “defensible spaces,” which have been successful in limiting the damage of spreading wildfires.
  • Firewise landscape strategies that involve planting fire-resistant trees and plants farther away from residential, commercial, and public properties.
  • Delineating areas for prescribed burns to alleviate some of the threat that larger, uncontrolled fires pose, by mapping areas for tree removal (some of the fuel that larger fires feed on). 
  • Restoring native vegetation that is fire-resistant and supports the reduction of wildfire risk while increasing biodiversity.


Academic Papers

A Landscape Architecture of Fire, Current Anthropology

Defining the Wildland-Urban Interface, Journal of Forestry

Public Knowledge Production (Manuals and “Explainers”)

Landscape Design for Fire Safety, Pacific Horticulture Magazine

Wildfires Are a Land Use Problem, The Dirt, ASLA

Interactive Maps Track Western Wildfires, The Dirt, ASLA

With Resilient Design, We Can Protect Our Communities from Wildfires, The Dirt, ASLA

Defensible Space Landscapist in the Urban/Wild Interface (Manual with Notes), University of California Cooperative Extension

A Synopsis of Prescribed Fire in New England, Ecological Landscape Alliance

Firewise Guide, National Fire Protection Association

Wildland Fire Science, USGS

Policy Guides

Sustainable and Fire-safe Landscapes, California Native Plant Society (list of policies)

Native Plants and Fire Safety Policy, ibid. (policy example)

Planning the Wildland-Urban Interface, American Planning Association (report)

National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy and Wildland Fire Preparedness, U.S. Department of Interior

Wildfires and Climate Change, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

U.S. Geological Survey Wildland Fire Science Strategic Plan, 2021–26, USGS

Example Products and Outcomes

Firescape Demonstration Garden: An Exhibition At The Asla Center For Landscape Architecture, ASLA (with NEA support)

The Science of Firescapes: Achieving Fire-Resilient Communities, BioScience (Expanded Journal Article with Visualizations and Mapping)
USGS Wildland Fire Science Strategic Plan, USGS