Photograph by Gaylon Wampler/AP Photo
Last year's droughts in the southern plains and southwest led to losses of crops, timber livestock and homes worth about $13 billion. During this summer's heat wave, wildfires have destroyed more than 600 homes in Colorado, which will cost insurers at least $450 million, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. The financial effects of wildfires on municipalities last for years. Burned homes decrease property values, causing counties to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue that can, in turn, affect police budgets, schools, road repair -- the very things that support housing values. Colorado lacks a law requiring homeowners in high-risk areas to use nonflammable building materials and to clear vegetation around their residences.