In this analysis we introduce a broad-scale long-term overview of the US West’s costliest wildfires in relation to the natural distribution of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). The species is dependent on frequent, low-intensity burning, but in absence of this function, it has become one of the region’s most altered ecosystems (U.S. Government Accounting Office, 1999; U.S.D.A. Forest Service, 2000; Arno and Allison-Bunnell, 2002; Fiedler and Arno, 2015). This analysis illuminates the relationship between deteriorated forest conditions over very large scales and the potential for severe, high-cost wildfires. Based on this analysis, we argue that the West’s wildfire crisis is fundamentally a forest land management problem and not a fire control failure, as it is more commonly perceived (Williams, 2013).