One in five homes facing wildfire risk, report says

About 80 million properties could in line of fire in next 30 years

National /
May.May 16, 2022 12:30 PM
First Street Foundation's Matthew Eby (First Street, iStock) Wildfire, Houses

First Street Foundation’s Matthew Eby (First Street, iStock)

The risk of wildfires is heating up across the country as climate change and other factors fuel more frequent and strong incidents.

Nearly 80 million residential and commercial properties are at risk of being damaged by a wildfire in the next 30 years, according to analysis from nonprofit research firm First Street Foundation reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Realtor.com used First Street’s property-level wildfire-risk scores to determine that one in every five homes in the United States is in danger, the Journal reported. Those homes represent $8.8 trillion in property value.

The level of risk varies along geographical lines. Approximately 1.5 million properties are at extreme risk, meaning there’s at least a 26 percent chance of being in a wildfire in the next three decades. Another 2.7 million properties are at severe risk (14 to 26 percent chance), six million are at major risk (6 to 14 percent) and another 20.2 million properties are at moderate risk (1 to 6 percent).

An additional 49.4 million homes are at a minor risk of being in a wildfire, less than a 1 percent probability rate.

Unsurprisingly, Sun Belt states have the highest count of properties at risk: California, Texas, Florida, Arizona and Oklahoma have the most properties with an 0.03 percent risk or more.

New Mexico, however, has the biggest proportion of properties with an 0.03 percent risk or more, 68.6 percent of properties in all.

First Street used public data in its model and ran simulations of wildfire behavior millions of times to determine which properties were likely to be in the path of a wildfire. It also used satellite images to estimate the intensity of potential exposure.

The foundation previously released flood maps in 2020, which determined millions of homes were at risk that weren’t disclosed by the federal government. Information from First Street was used in an analysis that uncovered flood costs are highest in formerly redlined areas.

Realtor.com plans to incorporate the wildfire risk data into its listings. It has already incorporated First Street’s flood risk data into its listings.

[WSJ] — Holden Walter-Warner





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