Out past the urban centers of Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane and toward the rural areas of central and Eastern Washington is an area of land not quite uninhabited and not quite bustling — the wildland urban interface. It’s the area where undeveloped land meets developed land, where buildings meet forests and fields.

As more workers find opportunities to do their jobs from home and rural areas receive access to high-speed internet, more people are moving out of city centers and into these areas, sometimes bringing with them a number of unintended consequences.

Wildfire risks, run-ins with wildlife and dwindling resources are some of the effects that could come from more people moving into undeveloped areas.

Mark Billings.

Most of the people moving into these areas have never lived in rural areas before, said Mark Billings, professor at Washington State University’s School of the Environment. Many of them don’t know how to live on that landscape and keep themselves safe.

“There’s probably a percentage of people moving into the (wildland urban interface) that shouldn’t be,” Billings said.

Wildfire danger is increasing due to climate change and more than 100 years of fire suppression, Billings said. At the same time, the number of people living in harm’s way is rising.

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