Based on CoreLogic's annual Wildfire Report for 2021, while California traditionally tops the list each year for wildfire risk simply because it's the most populous state, Wyoming and Idaho are the top states most at risk for a prolonged wildfire recovery.
Understanding Risk and Resilience
If a fire destroys 800 homes in California, the road to recovery and lasting impact is not synonymous with 800 homes burning in Wyoming, when considering the size of each state's housing stock. In states like Wyoming and Idaho, the number of homes at risk is a larger fraction of the total number of homes in the state. If a larger portion of the population is displaced at a single time, recovery times may be elongated, fewer local workers might be available -- and likely distracted rebuilding their own lives -- and fewer hotels and housing options may be available to outside workers due to local populace demand.
"There's no denying a state like California is at severe risk for wildfire destruction every year, as seen in the ongoing Dixie Fire," said Tom Larsen, principal, insurance solutions at CoreLogic. "But it's important to acknowledge that not all communities and their catastrophic events are the same, and the road to recovery can look drastically different. Resilience is often measured as how fast you can recover from a catastrophe -- and the deeper the wound, the longer it takes to heal."
Within these states, CoreLogic identified the five counties at highest risk. These counties, if impacted by wildfire, would likely have a longer and more difficult road to recovery than counties in more populous states.
Anticipating Climate Change Complications
The changing climate creates abnormal weather activity, like unusually high rainfall during seasons of vegetative growth, that then creates an overgrowth of plants known as ground fuels.
The environment is changing too rapidly to rely solely on wildfire loss history to plan for future wildfire mitigation and response. Probabilistic risk models, which can evaluate simulations of weather variation in today's environment, can produce planning scenarios relevant to communities now.