CoreLogic: Nearly 2 Million Homes at Elevated Risk of Wildfire Damage

CoreLogic, Irvine, Calif., released its 2020 Wildfire Risk Report as smoky skies and poor air quality continue to burden cities up and down the West Coast.

The report said 1,975,116 homes in the United States with an associated reconstruction cost of more than $638 billion at elevated risk of wildfire damage. These homes represent 6.5% of the total number of U.S. homes.

The Los Angeles metro area tops the list of metropolitan areas with the greatest single-family residences at wildfire risk, followed by the Riverside and San Diego metro areas. California is home to 76% of these residences on the top 10 list—but the reconstruction cost value of these homes comprise nearly 84% of the list.

“2017 and 2018 were incredibly destructive, record setting years for wildfire, followed by a comparatively quieter 2019,” said Tom Jeffery, principal hazard scientist with CoreLogic. “When we talk about wildfire trends, it’s important to treat any decrease in fire activity as only temporary. Like most natural hazards, there is no reason to believe that the amount of wildfire acreage, or the number of homes in the path of future wildfires will be any less – and certainly the ongoing 2020 season is proof of that, well on its way to being among the most devastating in recent memory.”

The report said every year, wildfires burn millions of acres and affect thousands of properties across the country. As the U.S. population increases and residential development extends farther from metro areas, more homes and businesses will face the threat of wildfires. Over the past two years, 96.4% of the total acres burned in the United States were in 13 western states, plus Alaska and Florida. These 15 states are often the most active wildfire states in the country.

The devastation in Oregon, Washington and California has caused loss of both dozens of lives and thousands of structures, and recovery from these wildfires is a process that can take years. Both Santa Rosa, home to the Tubbs Fire in 2017, and Paradise, where the Camp Fire took place in 2018, are still in the process of rebuilding

As major metro areas continue to expand, their borders tend to encroach on the higher-risk wildland fuels, which exist within or just beyond the edge of development, leaving even large population centers susceptible to wildfire destruction. History has shown how close proximity to these fuels can cause wildfires to easily push into densely developed urban areas and destroy thousands of homes within a matter of hours,” the report said.

“Immediate response to a natural catastrophe is a key element in the resiliency of a community. The recovery will need to address the real and visible problem of damaged property, while simultaneously battling the invisible but equally daunting risk of COVID-19 infections. Leveraging technology to deploy recovery resources only when and where they are needed can help responders manage this multifaceted challenge,” said Tom Larsen, principal of content strategy and insurance solutions with CoreLogic.

Additionally, this year the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional complications to an already deadly peril, the report said, and with the potential for disruptions to the supply chain for raw materials, manufacturing and transportation, this effort could be further challenged.

CoreLogic said insurance activities could also be challenged with an influx of claims and fewer adjusters to review damages, making automation and virtualization more critical than ever to supporting policyholders.

“For insurers, understanding risk at a granular level is paramount to adequately protecting homeowners–and supporting them at the first notice of loss,” the report said. “For homeowners, it is critical to work hand-in-hand with insurers to understand the financial implications of a given degree of risk and exposure. When communities work together to take steps in mitigating risk, these do have a significant impact on keeping homes, businesses and families safe.”

“The business landscape is changing to right-size today’s challenges,” said Mick Noland, Executive General Manager of Insurance Solutions with CoreLogic. “Wildfire risk presents a case study for this. A single event can completely destroy a home. It is critical for insurers to have a complete view of each unique property to ensure adequate coverage and support in the wake of a catastrophe.”

The CoreLogic Wildfire Risk Report analyzes both single-family and multifamily homes currently at risk of wildfire damage in the most wildfire-prone states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

The full report, including maps, charts and images, can be accessed at