More than 4.5 million homes in the U.S. are at high or extreme risk from wildfires, and nearly half of them are in California, according to data from an analytics company. Two million homes in California are at high or extreme risk, 1.3 million in Texas and almost 374,000 in Colorado, according to a report from Verisk Analytics, a company that provides such data to insurers and banks. Idaho has the highest percentage of homes at high or extreme risk, with 24 percent — nearly one in four — homes vulnerable to wildfires.
“Despite the fact that the number of acres burned in 2013 is lower than the past several years, our study shows insurer risk from wildfire is still significant,” Verisk Analytics Underwriting President Neil Spector said in a statement. “As losses continue to mount, managing wildfire risk needs to remain a top priority for property insurers.”
Though Spector’s analysis of the 2013 U.S. wildfire season being less severe than previous years in terms of acres burned is correct, this year’s wildfire season has still broken records. California’s Rim fire, which burned through 257,314 acres in August, was the third-largest in the state’s history and the largest wildfire ever to burn through the Sierra Nevada. And in June, Colorado’s Black Forest fire burned through at least 509 homes and killed two people, making it the most destructive in Colorado’s history.
California’s title as the state with the most homes at major risk to wildfires comes as it nears the last month of its driest year on record since 1895. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s winter outlook calls for a dry winter in much of the Southwest, which means it’s likely that California’s dry streak will continue.