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More people are moving to areas with high risk of wildfire

Posted at 3:56 PM, Jun 07, 2022 has added a new fire factor rating to every property on its website as wildfire risk across the country increases.

The data shows that 1 in 6 US homes, or 30 million, are at risk of being involved in a wildfire in the next 30 years.

“The risk is across the country,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association. “It isn’t just in the mountains and the foothills. We’re seeing it in urban and suburban areas.”

A dramatic number of homes included in wildfire risk areas is what is called the wildland-urban interface, the area where sprawling suburban life meets natural wildland areas.

Wildland-urban interfaces often have vegetation and trees that are more prone to drying out in a warming climate, so when a fire does break out, the amount of land that burns increases significantly.

This map from the First Street Foundation, which uses for its fire factor rating, shows how these areas are set to increase in risk over the next 30 years. The darker the red, the more at risk the area is to a wildfire.

The interesting part is instead of shrinking in population, these wildland-urban interfaces are booming. According to the business magazine Fast Company, the number of people living in the wildland-urban interface doubled from 1990 to 2010, with it’s largest gains in the southeast United States.

“Just because your state hasn’t had [a wildfire] yet, the risk is there, and so that’s an understanding that you’re going to have to get better acquainted with understanding your risk, identify your risk, and really look at what do I need to do on my property and in my community to reduce that risk level,” said Walker.

In 2020, California introduced a bill that would give up to $10,000 in tax credits to homeowners who performed mitigation acts around their homes by removing combustible materials, creating fuel breaks, and trimming tree limbs. In April of this year, Colorado passed a similar bill.