One of the most damaging natural catastrophes in the US is wildfire, which is only becoming more intense and larger. More than 71.8 million acres were lost to wildfires over the ten years ending in 2022, according to data from the National Interagency Fire Center. This is around 4.5% more land area destroyed during the first 20 years of record keeping, which began in 1983.
Certain regions of the nation are more vulnerable to wildfires than others, as is the case with the majority of natural disasters. Since 1990, there have been 22 wildfire incidents nationwide that have resulted in damage totaling at least $1 billion, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
All but three of these fires were contained completely or partially in California, and they generated over $142.4 billion in damage in addition to over 530 fatalities.
A disastrous wildfire can be more likely to occur in dry, windy conditions, which are typical in California. for 75% of the state’s geographical area has experienced drought for the majority of the last 34 years according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
In addition to drying up the flora in some areas of the state, the Santa Ana winds that originate in the Great Basin also increase the risk of wildfires by blowing embers.
California has the most to lose from wildfires in addition to being more susceptible than much of the rest of the nation. The real estate analytics company CoreLogic’s 2023 Wildfire Risk Report states that approximately 1.3 million properties in California could be destroyed by wildfires.
According to CoreLogic, replacing these homes in high-risk locations would cost an estimated $760.8 billion. Taking into account the average household size as recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau, the destruction of these homes might result in the displacement of approximately 3.6 million individuals.
The California metro areas of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, and San Francisco have the highest concentration of homes at risk of wildfire. A further 1.3 million houses in 13 other states west of the Mississippi River, including Colorado, Oregon, and Texas, are in increased danger of being destroyed by wildfires, according to CoreLogic.
Climate change is linked to many of the causes that have made California the epicenter of wildfire activity in the continental United States, and it is anticipated that these factors will only increase in the future. It is anticipated that as early as 2030, the average yearly loss in California due to wildfires will increase by 13% to $1.42 billion, even in the case of a slight reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The state’s average yearly wildfire damages are expected to increase by 31% to $1.59 billion by 2050.
According to CoreLogic, if greenhouse gas emissions keep rising unchecked, the financial damage caused by wildfires in California is expected to increase by 18% from present levels by 2030 to $1.42 billion and by 41% by 2050 to $1.70 billion.