Wildfires are an annual major risk in most areas of the western United States, and while large fires often burn in the rugged and generally unpopulated mountainous areas, the combination of dry conditions, heat, and winds can often lead to major disasters along what is known as the wildland-urban interface. There are hundreds of fires currently burning from Texas to California and north to Montana and Washington, several threatening urban areas.
In 2018, a particularly devastating year in California, over $13 billion in insurance claims were filed. Overall, a recent report (NIST Special Publication 1215: The Costs and Losses of Wildfires, 2017) estimated the annual cost of wildfires to range from $63 and $285 billion.
AGS has been a trusted source of small area weather and earthquake risk for twenty years, and, come our November (2020B) release, will be expanding our risk coverage with a number of new variables.
Based on models produced by the United States Forest Service (G.K. Dillon, Wildfire Hazard Potential (WHP) for the Coterminous United States, 2018), the core index shows the relative risk of wildfires at the block level of geography. Hawaii and Alaska have been modeled using similar techniques.
The national map shows the generalized pattern – wildfire risk is greatest in the western states, and in south Florida and parts of the gulf coast.
Three more detailed maps show the Pacific northwest, where the highest risk areas are generally away from the densely populated areas of the coast, south Florida, and southern California. High risk areas form a ring of hazards along the interface between the densely populated Los Angeles basin and the surrounding mountains.