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Wildfire Risk Seen High or Extreme at 4.5 Million Homes

Wildfire Risk Seen as High or Extreme at 4.5 Million U.S. Homes
A handwritten note by a home owner is left on the front door of a house for firefighters in Lake Hughes in Palmdale, California during a wildfire on June 3, 2013. Photographer: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

More than 4.5 million U.S. homes are at high or extreme risk from wildfires, led by properties in California, according to Verisk Analytics Inc., the supplier of actuarial data to insurers and banks.

California has 2 million properties meeting those risk designations, followed by Texas with 1.3 million and Colorado with almost 374,000, Verisk Insurance Solutions said today in a report.

Higher temperatures and increased development near forested areas have increased costs from U.S. wildfires. This year 19 firefighters known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots died battling a blaze in Arizona. Colorado wildfires have cost insurers more than $1 billion since 2010, including the Black Forest fire this year, Verisk said.

“As losses continue to mount, managing wildfire risk needs to remain a top priority for property insurers,” Verisk Underwriting President Neil Spector said in a statement.

Homeowners insurance covers the cost of rebuilding a house if it’s damaged or destroyed by fire, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Policies can also cover losses to personal property and hotel bills, meals and other living expenses if a home is uninhabitable. Policyholder-owned State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Allstate Corp. are the largest home insurers in the U.S.

Idaho had the greatest percentage of households at high or extreme risk at 24 percent, followed by Colorado at 17 percent, according to Verisk.

More than 42,000 wildland blazes were reported in the U.S. through Nov. 7, burning about 4.1 million acres (1.7 million hectares), according to the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center. Alaska and Idaho, two of the U.S. states with the lowest population density, had the most acres burned.

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