Document Type


Publication Date



In California (CA), the wildland-urban interface (WUI) faces escalating challenges due to surging population and real estate development. This study evaluates communities along CA's WUI that have witnessed substantial population growth from 2010 to 2021, utilizing demographic data and the 2020 WUI boundaries by the University of Wisconsin-Madison SILVIS Lab. Employing the Mann-Kendall test, we analyze yearly population trends for each census tract along the CA WUI and assess their significance. House ownership, affordability, and wildfire risk are examined as potential drivers of this demographic shift. Our findings indicate that 12.7% of CA's total population now resides in census tracts with significant population increases over the past decade, labeled as 'high-growth tracts.' The Bay Area and Southern California, encompassing 76% of all high-growth tracts in CA, witnessed the most substantial population increase along the WUI. Notably, Riverside County stands out with 29.2% of its residents (approximately 717,000 residents) located in high-growth tracts, exemplifying a significant population surge within CA's WUI. Our analysis identifies a significant relationship between population increase in the WUI, house ownership, and affordability, where lower-priced homes come at the expense of heightened wildfire risk. However, the impact of house affordability on population growth within the WUI varies by region, playing a more prominent role in explaining population proportions in Southern California's WUI, while in the universally low-affordability Bay Area, other motivations may drive residents to live within the WUI. Given the rapid growth and insufficient consideration of wildfire risk in the WUI, policymakers must take prompt action, ensuring adequate infrastructure and resources as more individuals relocate to areas with heightened wildfire risk.


This article was originally published in Environmental Research Communications, volume 6, in 2024.


The authors

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.