Wildfires threaten $659M of Wyoming home value

2012-09-16T11:30:00Z Wildfires threaten $659M of Wyoming home valueBy JEREMY FUGLEBERG Star-Tribune business editor Casper Star-Tribune Online

A significant number of Wyoming homes face damage or destruction from wildfires.

More than 2,000 homes in the state face a high or the highest possible risk from wildfires, which endanger $659 million of home value, according to an analysis firm in its inaugural wildfire risk report.

Of those, 1,164 homes are considered the highest risk for damage from wildfires, a total property value of $263 million.

The state also had 21,701 homes at low or moderate risk, at a total estimated value of $5.13 billion. Most of the homes at all levels of risk in Wyoming were in urban areas, with 114,718 residential properties in all threat levels compared to only 19,678 homes in agriculture zones.

The report targeted homes in urban areas adjacent to wild lands, also known as the wildland-urban interface, as the most problematic.

Between the years of 1990 and 2008, close to 17 million new homes were built in the U.S., of which 10 million — more than half — were located in the intermixed area and therefore potentially located near high-fire-risk zones, the report said.

“Homes located within a city boundary are not safe from the threat of wildfire destruction. In fact, the unprecedented growth of urban areas over the past 50 years has generally increased the likelihood homes will be damaged by wildfire activity,” said Howard Botts, vice president and director of database development for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions.

The report, released by CoreLogic on Sept. 10, was developed to provide the insurance industry, financial services companies, homeowners and others affected by wildfire with a better understanding of wildfire risk.

Beside Wyoming, the company analyzes home risk from wildfires in 12 other western U.S. states and a half-dozen cities in those states. Across the West, 740,000 homes worth a total of $136 billion are at high or highest risk. Slightly fewer than 168,000 homes worth a total of $32 billion fall into the highest risk category.

Botts noted this year’s dry and hot conditions have paired with a high wildfire fuel load from vegetation to spark a record wildfire season.

“Accurately identifying risk levels, even in areas where wildfire activity has historically been low, is imperative to mitigating the potentially devastating effect of fires to property and on human life,” Botts said in a news release.

The company based its risk cost on estimated properties values as of May 15.

The company’s 2012 Wildfire Hazard Risk Report examines Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Wyoming and Washington as well as six cities: Los Angeles, San Diego, Boulder, Colo; Austin, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M. and Salt Lake City.

The report also found:

n The states most commonly associated with wildfires — California, Colorado and Texas — do contain the most properties at risk. Those states have properties categorized as high or very high risk, at a total property value of more than $62 billion.

n California contains a total of 49,258 homes at very high risk, with another 48,901 and 28,490 in Colorado and Texas, respectively.

n Of the six cities analyzed in the report, Los Angeles is home to the most single-family residences exposed to wildfire risk, with more than 29,000 properties in the high or very high risk categories. The total value of the homes in those two categories is estimated to be nearly $10 billion, with Malibu at the top of the list of zip code areas with more than $900 million in potential residential property exposure to wildfire risk.

Reach Jeremy Fugleberg at 307-266-0623 or jeremy.fugleberg@trib.com. Read his blog at trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/boom/ and follow him on Twitter: @jerenergy.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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