Sustainability Environment

The priciest homes face highest risk of wildfire, study finds

In California alone, 8,835 fires burned more than 2.5 million acres in 2021.
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  • Researchers at Resources for the Future found that the top 10 percent of the most valuable homes in the Western U.S. are 70 percent more likely to be in high wildfire hazard areas than median-value properties, when measured by county. 

  • The team studied properties’ location, value, community characteristics and proximity to previous wildfires to evaluate relative risk. 

  • They also found that Native American communities and the lowest-value homes in the studied area were disproportionately exposed to wildfires. 

High-value homeowners alongside white, high-income and elderly communities are more likely to be affected by hazardous wildfires in the Western U.S., according to a new study.  

Researchers at Resources for the Future, an independent research firm in Washington, D.C., found that the top 10 percent of the most valuable homes in the Western U.S. are 70 percent more likely to be in high wildfire hazard areas when compared to median-value properties. 

The team, using granular spatial data, studied a properties’ location, value, community characteristics and proximity to previous wildfires to evaluate relative risk.  

Meanwhile, researchers noted that Native American communities and the lowest-value homes in the studied area were disproportionately exposed to wildfires.  


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“Wildfire mitigation policies that deliver financial assistance to high-hazard areas could be subsidizing wealthy households,” study co-author Molly Robertson said in a news release.  

“However, high wildfire hazard areas are quite heterogeneous, so addressing concerns associated with costs of increasing wildfire hazard may call for a geographically targeted approach focused on reducing the burden for the most vulnerable communities,” adds co-author Molly Robertson.   

In California alone, 8,835 fires burned more than 2.5 million acres in 2021. 

The study was published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.  


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