California

Billions in California real estate at serious risk from wildfire. New study maps it out

She was dropped by her home insurer – even after this unusual step to stop wildfires

Placer County resident Jennifer Burt was given notice that her home insurance carrier is dropping her due to fire risk in her area. She talks about the extra measures she's to taken to keep her home safe from wildfires on Monday, July 15, 2019.
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Placer County resident Jennifer Burt was given notice that her home insurance carrier is dropping her due to fire risk in her area. She talks about the extra measures she's to taken to keep her home safe from wildfires on Monday, July 15, 2019.

Nearly 500,000 California homes worth a combined $268 billion are under serious risk from wildfire, real estate marketing firm Zillow says.

Zillow said it found 477,039 homes categorized at high or very high risk. The marketer said it based its analysis on its own housing data and risk maps published by the U.S. Forest Service.

In the greater Sacramento area, Zillow found $27.1 billion worth of real estate at high or very high risk, a total of 54,958.

The findings are the latest report detailing the widespread nature of California’s fire risk. More than $20 billion worth of property was destroyed in the 2017 and 2018 fires.

Nearly 3 million homes lie within the various “severity zones” mapped by Cal Fire, with thousands sitting in the “very high fire hazard severity zones,” the agency’s designation for the worst risks. A McClatchy analysis of Cal Fire’s wildfire risk maps revealed that more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities that lie almost entirely within those riskiest areas.

Notably, almost all of Paradise sat in the highest risk zone before last November’s Camp Fire destroyed most of the town’s housing stock and killed 85 people.

According to Zillow, the Riverside area has the most homes facing significant wildfire risk: 113,520 properties worth a combined $40 billion.

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Dale Kasler covers climate change, the environment, economics and the convoluted world of California water. He also covers major enterprise stories for McClatchy’s Western newspapers. He joined The Bee in 1996 from the Des Moines Register and graduated from Northwestern University.
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