More Than 740,000 Residences at High Risk for Wildfire Damage

CoreLogic report finds homes located where development meets wildland have highest risk of wildfire-related loss.

More than 740,000 residences in the western U.S., with estimated value of more than $136 billion, are at “high” or “very high” risk of sustaining damage from a wildfire, with 168,000 of the “very high” risk residences valued at more than $32 billion, according to a new report by CoreLogic.

CoreLogic focused on the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), the area where urban development and wildland meet. Fires are most often attributed to wildland areas, so the best way to recognize high-risk residential structures is to locate the WUI.

Approximately 17 million new homes were built in the U.S. between 1990 and 2008. Ten million of those were constructed in the WUI. About 40 percent of the 115 million individual dwellings in the U.S. are located within the WUI. The past two decades have seen a significant increase in homes lost to wildfire, which corresponds with an increase in residential development in the WUI.

Wildfires have caused billions of dollars of property damage in the last two decades alone. Human activities cause more fires each year than lightning, be it a cigarette or sparks from power lines. Some research centered on climate change speculates that changing weather patterns may impact the risk of wildfires, but this has not been determined for certain. U.S. forest fire policy in the 20th century might also be contributing to risk rather than mitigating it. While wildfire statistics fluctuate, it is believed that they do so in a slight cyclical pattern, which has become more pronounced over the last decade. States where the risk is traditionally highest—Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado—have seen record-breaking wildfire damage in 2011 and 2012.

CoreLogic has several methods of evaluating wildfire risk. The initial step is to divide risk in categories based on fairly stable variables such as terrain, fuel and vegetation. Terrain aspects, such as the direction a slope faces and how steep it is, contribute to how fast a fire can move. Fuel and vegetation density indicate how intense a wildfire might become.

CoreLogic uses these variables to determine Low, Moderate, High and Very High risk categories. Urban and agricultural areas are defined separately because of an absence of natural fuels and the resulting lower risk profile. This risk model does not factor in short term changes in climate and weather. It is not designed to identify ignition points or predict a current fire’s progression.

Source: The Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Wildland Urban Interface Fire, 2008.

(Graph source: The Blue Ribbon Panel Report on Wildland Urban Interface Fire, 2008.)

After CoreLogic has created categories, it then assigns each property a wildfire risk score from 1 to 100. The score comes from considering risk inside of an individual property boundary and the property’s distance from nearby high-wildfire-risk areas. A score of 50 or below indicates very little to no wildfire risk. Scores between 81 and 100 indicate properties with the highest susceptibility to wildfire. 

The risk score process places more than 900,000 properties in the 81 to 100 range, a total estimated value of $161 billion. The reason for the discrepancy is that the scoring method considers fire’s ability to grow when wind-blown embers are carried over longer distances. CoreLogic assures that despite the differences in numbers, both methods accurately define potential wildfire risk.

Page 1 of 2

Resource Center

View All »

Complimentary Case Study: Helping achieve your financial goals By:...

Find out how a Special Investigation Union used TLOxp to save the company money and...

Do Your Clients Hold The Right CDL License?

Learn about the various classes of CDL Licenses and the industries that are impacted by...

Integrated Content & Communications: A Key Business Issue For Insurers

Insurers are renewing their focus on top line growth, and many are learning that growth...

High Risk Insurance Coverage in the E&S Market

Experts discuss market conditions, trends and projected growth in a rapidly changing niche.

Top E-Signature Security Requirements

This white paper covers the most important security features to look for when evaluating e-signatures...

EPLI Programs Crafted Just For Your Clients

Bring us your restaurant clients, associations and other groups and we’ll help you win more...

Is It Time To Step Up And Own An Agency?

Download this eBook for insight on how to determine if owning an agency is right...

Claims - The Good The Bad And The Ugly

Fraudulent claims cost the industry and the public thousands of dollars in losses. This article...

Leveraging BI for Improved Claims Performance and Results

If claims organizations do not avail themselves of the latest business intelligence (BI) tools, they...

Top 10 Legal Requirements for E-Signatures in Insurance

Want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases when adopting e-signatures? Learn how to...

Risk Management Report eNewsletter

Identify problems involving emerging risks, reinsurance, and business interruption with help from Risk Management Report - FREE. Sign Up Now!

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.