Large Number of Area Homes Exposed to Fire Danger

A report released today by the nonprofit Insurance Information Network of California found that some 417,000 LA County homes are at risk of being wiped out by wildfire.

Just over a week after fire scorched thousands of acres in the San Gabriel Mountains, a nonprofit insurance network found that Los Angeles County has the highest number of homes exposed to fire danger.

According to a report released today by the nonprofit Insurance Information Network of California and an underwriting firm, some 417,000 LA County homes are at risk of being wiped out by wildfire.

The number statewide is roughly 2 million.

“Nearly 15 percent of the 13.5 million homes in California face severe wildfire risk. That's nearly as many homes as are in the entire state of Colorado," said Candysse Miller, executive director of the insurance group.

“Wildfire risk is not exclusive to mountain or rural communities,” she said. "Many of these homes are in densely-populated suburban neighborhoods.”

The vegetation in the hillsides behind Monrovia hasn't burned in decades. Monrovia fire officials say a major brush fire in the area is inevitable.

"Really we haven't had a major fire in at least a couple of generations," former City Manager Scott Ochoa said in 2010. "The irony there is that actually presents its own host of challenges."

The Williams Fire was contained on Sept. 13, according to US Forest Service officials. Flames consumed 4,192 acres and forced evacuations of the area as the fire threatened homes.

Although Southern California counties represent 53 percent of the high-risk residences statewide, Northern California has a higher percentage of such housing units, according to the IINC.

Alpine, Mariposa, Tuolumne and Nevada counties account for about 95,000 homes, of which more than 77 percent, or 74,000, are considered high-risk, according to the IINC.

The analysis, done jointly with Verisk Insurance Solutions Underwriting, was based on fuels, trees, grasses and brush that feed wildfires; slope, the incline of the surrounding land, which can determine how fast a wildfire spreads; and access, or how easy it is for firefighters to get to the home; along with Verisk's FireLine, a wildfire risk management system.

"It's impossible to know precisely which properties will be impacted by wildfires," Verisk Underwriting President Neil Spector warned. "However, understanding the wildfire risk attributes of individual properties can help insurers effectively manage potential losses by rating policies based on the risk and managing exposure concentrations. In fact, FireLine results have already been approved for rate making purposes in California."

According to the state Department of Insurance, properties estimated to be worth about $3 trillion were covered by insurance in 2001. And the California FAIR Plan, the insurer of last resort insuring high-risk properties, insured less than 1.25 percent of that real estate.

A county-by-county breakdown of the analysis is available at www.iinc.org.


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