New Online Wildfire Risk Map Tells You How Vulnerable Your Home Is to Burning Down
Nearly 72 million homes in the US are at risk of being destroyed by wildfires to some degree, according to a new analysis was published Monday by the nonprofit First Street Foundation in New York. And worse, climate change is expected to increase that number to 80 million people within the next 30 years. While wildfires are commonly associated with areas like California, First Street analysis shows that many areas of the United States will face unplanned and uncontrolled wildfires raging through the United States. their communities. A state like Florida, where 6% of properties are at risk of wildfire, would see this value double entirely to 12% by 2052.
To help homeowners navigate such increased dangers and plan ahead, First Street created Risk factor, an online-first mapping tool for homeowners in the continental United States to view their property’s wildfire risk by ZIP Code. Information will be displayed on real estate websites such as Realtor.com.
Such a map is long overdue. The U.S. government maintains flood maps that help homeowners determine their property’s risk to flood events. But only a few states have maps that address wildfire risk. Many wildfire-prone states do not require sellers to disclose information that is available to anyone buying or renting a home, as demonstrated by a 2020 NPR investigation.
This comes despite the fact that in 2018 Congress issued a requirement that the US Forest Service map wildfires across the country. The result is Risk of forest fire to the community, a website that shows which neighborhoods are more or less prone to wildfires. Unfortunately, this effort has so far been too small to make an assessment of the likelihood of a private property being captured by a widespread fire.
Climate change only exacerbates the situation. A recent United Nations report says that uncontrolled wildfires are expected to increase by 14% globally by 2030, 30% by 2050 and 50% by the end of the century. The United States, has been and is experiencing effects, as evidenced by Severe wildfires in California over the past few yearsand elsewhere in the Southwestern United States (a huge fire is currently burning thousands of acres in New Mexico).
Ed Kearns, a climate change scientist and First Street data director, told The Daily Beast, First Street’s tool uses computer models to simulate what wildfires will look like. and how it works over the next three decades.
Computer models were taught to make their predictions after being informed about the behavior and spread of more than 500 historic wildfires. They also incorporated data on the distribution of natural wildlife fuels such as trees and vegetation, and how the spread of these fuels is expected to change over time. First Street also incorporates information about factors that make a home susceptible to fire such as roof type (for example, cedar shingles increase fire risk), building materials, and nearby vegetation. Finally, they included 10 years’ worth of data on weather patterns from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to see how events like winds help fires spread faster and carbon emissions will affect them. affect future weather conditions (hence the intensity of the fire).
“Our goal is to make climate change personal and encourage people to take action.”
– Ed Kearns, First Street
“We do every possible permutation for all different weathers, all ignition patterns using historical ignition positions, and we see what emerges from there,” Kearns said. . Based on these simulations, Risk Factor was then able to predict the likelihood that a house could burn down in the event of a wildfire, on a scale of 10. The more often the ZIP code was damaged in the simulations. the higher the risk of forest fire. And over time, climate change could pose a smaller risk of snowballing into larger balls.
Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weathering Laboratory, said in an email to The Daily Beast, one data set missing in this risk assessment is how fires create their own wind system. Kearns countered that these are extremely rare wildfire scenarios and that the Risk Factor score should still be fairly accurate even if firestorms are not part of the model. In any event, First Street will continue to update its model based on wildfire frequency, vegetation change, and any bushfire mitigation efforts that neighborhoods make.
“Government reports do not make climate change personal,” says Kearns. “Our goal is to make climate change personal and encourage people to take action.”