Wildfire Risk: Are We Building Just to Burn?

California and the Pacific Northwest are experiencing unprecedented wildfires. The severity, location, and timing of these fires are extreme outlier events that match the exceptional year that is 2020. Therein lies the problem. When you think about what to do next, whether it’s rebuilding, remodeling, moving, reinsuring, offering a new mortgage, or any of the more collective decisions such as wildfire policy or supporting more sustainable forestry endeavors, making location decisions on the outliers isn’t the way to go.

It’s human nature to evaluate risk based on the exceptional events that stick in your mind. But, evaluating your risk of wildfire is tricky. It’s not as simple to just avoid previous hotspots. The frequency and severity of wildfires will increase in a future shaped by climate change, but models and data will clarify expectations and inform better decision making. That’s what we’re doing at ClimateCheck.com: providing localized risk information on hazards linked to climate change. We give you a free way to assess current and future risk of wildfire and other hazards for every address in the US.

Wildfire is mostly an issue in the western states. While the eastern states experience more lightning, the conifers of the northwestern forests and the chaparral of the Southwest are dryer fuel sources than the deciduous forests of the East. Add in the greater risk of drought in the West versus the increasing risk of extreme storm events and heavy precipitation in the East, subtract the vast swaths of irrigated and heavily managed agricultural land in between and there you go: wildfire is western.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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