More Than 2M California Homes Exposed to High Wildfire Danger

September 20, 2012

More than two million California homes face extreme wildfire hazards, according to new research by the insurance industry.

Analysis by the Insurance Information Network of California and Verisk Insurance Solutions – Underwriting reveals that the majority of high-risk homes are located in Southern California. However, rural Northern California counties are not exempt, as many of these regions have the highest percentage of homes exposed to extreme fire dangers.

“Nearly 15 percent of the 13.5 million homes in California face severe wildfire risk. That’s nearly as many homes as are in the entire state of Colorado,” said Candysse Miller, executive director of the Insurance Information Network of California. “Wildfire risk is not exclusive to mountain or rural communities. Many of these homes are in densely-populated suburban neighborhoods.”

More than 417,000 of these high-risk homes are located in Los Angeles County. Southern California counties represent 53 percent of the high-risk homes statewide.

By comparison, Northern California, however, has a higher percentage of high-risk homes. The counties of Alpine, Mariposa, Tuolumne and Nevada account for more than 95,000 homes. However, more than 77 percent of these, or nearly 74,000, are considered high-risk.

The company used FireLine, its wildfire risk management system to analyze California wildfire risk. The system utilizes advanced remote sensing technology from Verisk’s Atmospheric and Environmental Research (AER) business unit to evaluate wildfire risk at the address level. The AER technology assesses the three primary factors that contribute to wildfire risk.

Fuels. Trees, grasses and brush that feed wildfires were analyzed.

Slope. The grade of the surrounding land was measured as terrain can influence the speed and intensity of a wildfire.

Access. A determination was made on the condition and network of roads leading to each individual property.

“It’s impossible to know precisely which properties will be impacted by wildfires,” said Neil Spector, president of Verisk Underwriting. “However, understanding the wildfire risk attributes of individual properties can help insurers effectively manage potential losses by rating policies based on the risk and managing exposure concentrations. In fact, FireLine results have already been approved for rate making purposes in California.”

Statewide, insurers protected more than $3 trillion worth of residential property in 2011, according to the California Department of Insurance. The California FAIR Plan, the insurer of last resort insuring high-risk properties, insured less than 1.25 percent of it. As a result, private insurers cover nearly 99 percent of the insured residential properties in the state.

IINC has available an interactive map on its web site,, that provides a county-by-county breakdown of the number and percentage of homes at risk.

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