Home > Insurance Blog > What to expect with wildfire season
If you live in the Western Region of the US, and even more specifically the Pacific Northwest, wildfire season should be a topic of major interest to you. California, Arizona, and Colorado, among other states, are all within an area where wildfires could pose a threat to your home and possessions, and understanding the trends wildfire season imposes on your community is important to stay safe and prepared.
Over the past few years, we have seen record-breaking wildfire seasons. In fact, wildfires in 2020 have led to an estimated $7 and $13 billion in insured property loss and damage. The Carr fire of 2018 was one of the most devastating in history. The effects of climate change and extreme weather events can be felt worldwide, but they are particularly substantial in areas where a single event can demolish hundreds of thousands of acres and leave homeowners throughout the area without a place to live. This threat has a marked effect on how the community functions, including the real estate market, property insurance market, and more.
To understand the full scope of wildfire season’s effect on the Pacific Northwest, we’ve outlined several factors that contribute to the increased threat of fire in that area and how it’s changing the landscape for homeowners in that region.
For obvious reasons, wildfires have a major impact on the communities they affect. While it might seem like they would only be relevant during the actual event, the true effects can be seen in day-to-day life. Building regulations, materials, and community action all center around prevention and the attempt to mitigate the effects of wildfire.
One of the most visible aspects of this is the rising popularity of fireproof homes in the area. These homes are designed and built to reduce their vulnerability to fire, as well as comply with building codes meant to have the same effect. This includes some of the following measures:
All of these factors go into creating what is called a “defensible space” around the home that gives the property some protection in case of a wildfire.
Fire-resistant building materials and architecture designed to limit the risk of fire damage are also used throughout the home. This could look like detached garages, steeper roofs, or an absence of wooden decks. In all cases, it’s an attempt to limit a home’s vulnerability to fire.
The real estate market is also impacted, but not in the way you might think. As people are displaced, demand for housing rises, which means homes sell for much higher than the asking price. Rebuilding is difficult, there are often more expenses associated with rebuilding due to new codes that must be complied with, and there is the added issue of migration as people choose to leave the state. Property value and home costs skyrocket in the face of wildfire, leaving those who are displaced with even fewer options.
There have been record-setting temperatures throughout the Pacific Northwest region in the past few days. While unpleasant, the threat of wildfire isn’t related directly to the heat itself. Moreover, it’s related to the conditions that extreme heat creates: dry and perfect for the spread of fire. Any spark can easily turn into a major blaze in conditions that dry and in an alarmingly short window, you can be confronted with a catastrophic wildfire.
As if wildfires weren’t terrifying enough, in extreme situations, they can cause fire tornadoes. Fire tornadoes form when the intense heat from a fire rises and the surrounding air rushes in to replace it, which creates a spinning column of air. This is an added complication when fighting back a wildfire and can exacerbate the existing situation by tossing around embers and fire into more areas.
As technology has evolved, firefighters have been able to make advances in their techniques to combat wildfires. These include:
Continued innovation will be paramount to reducing the risk of further devastating wildfire seasons.
Based on past trends and current data, this year’s wildfire season will pose new challenges and will likely impact homeowners across the Pacific Northwest. Wildfires are known for their unpredictability and all we can know for sure is that the record-breaking heatwaves are priming the environment for a major wildfire event. Although firefighters are constantly learning new ways to reduce the risk and communities are doing their best to mitigate their home’s vulnerability to fire, there’s only so much that can be done. Wildfires are nearly unstoppable forces and there’s no way to completely protect your home or family from their effects. The best you can do is prepare, do your research, and rely on experts to do the rest.
People will inevitably be displaced by wildfires, and for that Sedgwick’s temporary housing division is prepared to step in and provide a place for families to live and heal while they rebuild their lives and find their new home.
For more information, contact Sedgwick’s temporary housing division here.
Filed Under: Weather Catastrophe