New Climate Study: Wildfires Will Burn 9.3 Million Acres Per Year Nationally; Yet Millions Continue to Move to High-Risk Areas

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Of the 20 areas with the highest risk of fire, more than half have growing populations; Six are in top 15% of fastest growing counties, according to ClimateCheck

As 2020’s historic wildfire season ends with millions of acres charred and thousands of homes destroyed, a new study from ClimateCheck, a company that brings climate risk data to the individual property level, shows that the problem will increasingly worsen in the coming years with 9.3 million acres burned nationally each year by 2050. Moreover, according to the data, people continue migrating in high numbers to areas that are most at risk for future wildfires, with six among the fastest-growing counties in the country.

Placer County, northwest of Sacramento, is tied for the highest wildfire risk in the nation, with the typical home there logging a wildfire risk score of 98 out of 100 and projected to burn 28,498 acres a year by 2050, according to ClimateCheck’s proprietary rating system. Yet the population there has grown nearly 7 percent in recent years, placing it in the 15th percentile of fastest growing counties.

In several counties in the Greater Salt Lake area — Weber, Morgan and Salt Lake counties — property risks for fire are 97, 95 and 88, respectively. Weber County’s population grew nearly 6 percent in recent years; Morgan County’s grew by 17.5 percent; and Salt Lake County’s grew by nearly 7 percent. All three of these counties are projected to burn more than 55,000 acres collectively a year by 2050.

Overall, 14 of the top counties with the highest fire risk experienced growth, with six experiencing growth that put them in the top 15 percent fastest growing counties in the country.

“There are many reasons people continue to run into the fire,” said Skylar Olsen, economic advisor to ClimateCheck. “Whether pushed to the periphery by affordability concerns or pulled there by the value of space, a more natural world and a slower pace, many are attracted to more rural areas for affordable options outside of large- or medium-sized cities with job availability. But more growth in these areas won’t stop wildfires — building into the wildland-urban interface will put more homes and people at risk. Prudent zoning measures and strategic property and forest management, are a must as climate change will continue to bring more serious wildfire seasons to the Western U.S., more often.”

ClimateCheck’s data scientists and economists use hundreds of data sources from the government and academia to provide five individual ratings for every home — flood, storm, fire, heat and drought. They then combine these to create an overall risk rating that gives people an assessment of their overall risk of climate hazard from five to 40 years from now, using data that’s available today and updated regularly. Climate check ratings are representations of the relative risk across the contiguous United States for meaningful comparisons between any locations.

Consumers can compare the climate risks of different areas before buying and homeowners can assess their home’s risk and take steps to mitigate the threats.

About ClimateCheck
ClimateCheck is the first company to bring climate data to the individual property level, allowing homeowners and buyers access to robust information about risk. The company combines and analyzes the most trusted climate data from academic and government institutions with property-level data, giving homeowners, buyers and others the most individualized look at how climate change will affect their home or property. Data is sourced from 30 downscaled global climate models from agencies including NOAA, USGS, the National Hurricane Center, the US Forest Service, and FEMA, and informed by up-to-date academic research.

Media Relations Contact:
Paul Bergman

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