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Mortgage

Wildfire threat takes over housing in western states

More than 1.2 million properties remain at risk

Recent wildfires illustrate just how dangerous and costly these disasters can be when homes sit directly in their path.

Thus, it’s critical to prepare for and mitigate these home hazards early on, CoreLogic suggested in a new report. In fact, the research and analytics firm continues to study all of the risks, so communities, homeowners and the industry can better understand all of the conditions that lead to wildfire-risk exposure.

More than 1.2 million residential properties in 13 Western U.S. states sit in the potential path of a wildfire, representing $189 billion in total property value combined.

"Coming off a record-setting year in 2012, the 2013 wildfire season has already presented a number of damaging fires including the Black Forest Fire in Colorado and the Rim Fire in California," said Thomas Jeffery, senior hazard scientist for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions.

He added, "The next two months could be a critical time should fires continue to ravage the dry fuel areas in the west, as ongoing drought conditions in the region continue to exacerbate wildfire risk."

The unprecedented expansion of urban areas over the past 50 years has greatly increased the opportunity for homes to be damaged by wildfire, with more properties situated in high-risk zones.

Companies can use the wildfire-risk trends to determine which homes should be inspected, explained Howard Botts, vice president and director of database development for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions.

"Insurers can use the wildfire scores we provide on a property-by-property basis to set pricing and underwriting guidelines based on their wildfire risk appetite," he added.

At the regional level, the Southern Rockies and the South Central portion of the U.S. contain the most properties facing wildfire risk.

The states most commonly associated with wildfires also contain the most at-risk homes — with California, Colorado and Texas housing the largest number of properties categorized as very high risk, with a combined property value exceeding $34.5 billion.

However, Colorado tops the list of states, with a total of 83,174 homes falling into the very high-risk category.

On a metropolitan level, Los Angeles is home to the most single-family residences exposed to wildfire risk, with more than 60,000 properties in the 'high' or 'very high risk' categories.

The total value of homes in these two categories is roughly $8.3 billion, with Malibu at the top of the list of ZIP code areas — representing more than $700 million in potential residential property exposure to wildfire risk.

It’s important to note that just because someone’s home is located within a city boundary doesn’t necessarily mean they are safe from wildfire destruction if there is wild land vegetation nearby, Jeffery stated.

"Since much of the expansion on the urban edge consists of residential properties, an increasing number of newer homes are located in close proximity to natural wild land areas where the potential for wildfire damage is much greater," he concluded.

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