The number of homes exposed to wildfire risks and the amount of damage sustained will continue to increase, according to “Wildfire Hazard Risk Report: Residential Wildfire Exposure Estimates for the Western United States,” a report from CoreLogic, a property-information analytics and services provider. CoreLogic attributes the increase in risk to ongoing urban expansion into high-wildfire risk areas.
“Wildfires most often originate in wildland areas, and therefore, the only way to understand the risk to residential dwellings is to define where the wildland area comes into contact with a developed area,” CoreLogic said. “The interface provides a means of locating the intersection of potentially high-risk fire areas and large numbers of homes.”
In 2012, 9.326 million acres burned, the largest area burned in the 53 years since accurate totals exist, which is substantially greater than the 10-year U.S. average of 7.262 million acres, CoreLogic said. However, the total number of fires decreased. In 2012 there were 67,664 wildfires, reflecting a seven-year trend of decline and below the 10-year average of 74,918.
“In fact, the number of homes that have been destroyed in recent years has increased dramatically,” CoreLogic said. “An increase in residential development in the Wildland-Urban Interface is likely one of the factors responsible for this increase in homes lost to wildfire.”
The number of structures damaged or destroyed last year totaled 4,244, including 2,216 residences and 2,028 outbuildings; the 10-year average, from 1999 to 2011 was 2,669, including 1,416 residences and 1,253 outbuildings, CoreLogic said. In Colorado last year, 656 homes were destroyed, accounting for nearly 30 percent of all homes burned in wildfires that year.
In 2013, fires haven’t been as frequent or destructive as last year, which was a record-setting season, when drought conditions reached unprecedented levels. However, there have been several fires spanning more than 100,000 acres, including the 257,000 acre Rim Fire, the third largest fire in California history. The Black Forest Fire in Colorado consumed more than 486 structures in June, making it the most destructive fire in state history. The Black Forest Fire, and the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires last year are now the three most destructive fires recorded in Colorado. The Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona burned more than 8,000 acres, damaged or destroyed 129 homes and caused the deaths of 19 firefighters.
California, Colorado and Texas have the largest number of properties categorized as very high risks, CoreLogic said, and the total combined value of properties in very high risk areas of in California and Colorado is greater than $28 billion.
Major metropolitan areas with high wildfire risk properties include:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- Boulder, Co.
- Austin, Texas
- Salt Lake City
- Albuquerque, N.M.
- Prescott, Ariz.
The report includes fire case studies, as well as estimates for individual states.
For more on how wildfire losses have been effecting rates, click here.
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