DENVER (AP/CBS4) — Forest managers say 2.9 million residents now live in areas at risk of wildfire in Colorado, up 45 percent over five years.

The State Forest Service released updated statistics Monday on the number of people who live in the wildland-urban interface, where homes are built near or within areas prone to wildland fire.

wildfire evacuations Half Of Coloradans Now Live In Areas At Risk Of Wildfire

A wind-swept wildfire forced the evacuation of homes near Hanover on March 16, 2018. (credit: KKTV)

The last estimate, in 2013, said 2 million people lived in the wildland-urban interface.

The agency says three factors are behind the increase: More people moving into fire-prone areas, better data and changes in land use and vegetation patterns.

The new figures mean roughly half the state’s population lives in areas at risk of wildfire. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Colorado’s population at 5.6 million last year but the state has been growing rapidly.

wolcott wildfire 1 csp eagle tweet Half Of Coloradans Now Live In Areas At Risk Of Wildfire

A wildland fire near Wolcott on June 9, 2018. (credit: CSP Eagle)

Amanda West, CSFS science information manager, points out that the largest increases in population growth within the interface are in areas where agricultural lands are being converted to grasslands and subdivisions. Although these areas are considered in a low-risk category, they are still at a higher risk for wildfire than more urban areas.

The Bureau of Land Management recently announced 2018 was one of northwest Colorado’s worst fire seasons.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfire section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile), the deadliest (Storm King) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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