Half of California Homes Face Wildfire Dangers

October 23, 2003

More than half of California’s 12.5 million homes face wildfire dangers that pose a financial loss potential well in excess of $106 billion, according to state fire statistics and insurance industry analysis.
These dangers are illustrated in the four wildfires currently burning in Southern California. Fire conditions could be heightened this weekend as Santa Ana winds are expected to blow through the state. While other Western states have survived a relatively mild brushfire season, California typically faces its greatest danger from October through early November, when winds peak.

According to new research by the California Department of Forestry, more than 7.2 million California homes are categorized in the three highest fire risk levels — more than 6 million of which are located in urban areas. These include Los Angeles County, with more than 734,000 homes at risk, or 22.5 percent of all the homes in the county; Alameda County, with more than 244,000, or 45.2 percent; and San Diego County, with more than 619,000, or 59.5 percent.

The estimated 585,000 homes categorized in the highest risk level statewide pose a potential financial loss of at least $106 billion, according to CDF projections.

The fire danger is compounded by years of drought-like conditions and the ravages of a bark beetle infestation that has turned California forests into tinderboxes just waiting for a spark.

“The clear and present threat of devastating wildfires should be a concern to all Californians,” said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California. “Few communities are immune from the deadly combination of fierce October winds and the effects of summer’s traditional lack of rain.”

As fire season moves into its most dangerous time of year, IINC urges homeowners to take measures to reduce their home’s wildfire risks by taking such steps as creating a defensible space, planting a fire resistant landscape, developing a family evacuation and documenting a home inventory. Property owners should also make sure their insurance coverage keeps pace with the rising cost of rebuilding their homes and replacing their possessions. Homeowners in communities at greatest risk of wildfire are also encouraged to join or form Fire Safe Councils, which bring the public and private sectors together to protect their communities from wildfire.

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