Over 58,000 wildfires burned 7.1 million acres in the US in 2021, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. One year prior, a similar number of fires burned more than 10 million acres. Unfortunately, recent reports indicate we’re in for much of the same in 2022.
Living in an area with wildfire risk means you need to take steps to protect your home and family. So let’s take a closer look at these reports and what you can do to be prepared.
Predictions for US wildfire season 2022
A report from Zesty.ai, A Data-Driven Conversation About Wildfire Risk in 2022, claims that large areas of the US will have a wildfire season similar to 2020 and 2021 – two of the worst wildfire years on record. For example, California, the state with the lion’s share of wildfires, had a particularly devastating season in 2021 where wildfires destroyed:
- 2.5 million acres.
- 3,629 structures.
The previous year, 2020, was even worse with:
- 4.3 million acres burned.
- 11,116 structures destroyed.
Drought patterns in California, the primary driver of wildfire risk, are nearly the same in 2022 as they were in 2020 and 2021. The report goes on to list several other states where drought increases the chance for wildfires to this year.
Another report, this one from AccuWeather, echoes the Zesty.ai predictions, anticipating an “intense” wildfire season that could see 68,000 to 72,000 fires and 8.1 to 8.3 million acres burned. In fact, wildfires had already burned more than 1.1 million acres as of May 3, 2022. That’s double the acreage burned by that date last year.
Historically, wildfire season sits between the months of July and October, when vegetation is at its driest, and temperatures are at their peak. But as we’ve discussed in previous posts, experts now believe that wildfire season is year-round – especially in the drought-ridden states out West.
Climate change and wildfires: What’s the connection?
The general consensus in the science community is that climate change is a key factor in increasing wildfire risk. The ideal situation for a wildfire includes hot temperatures, low soil moisture, and the presence of fuel (e.g., trees and shrubs). Climate change brings higher temperatures and more drought, and the dryer conditions make it easier for fires to start and harder to put out.
Where wildfire risk is greatest
Areas with the worst drought conditions have the most wildfire risk. According to the Zesty.ai report, property owners in these states have the most concern:
- New Mexico
However, the Accuweather report lists additional areas with increased wildfire risk, such as Southern Florida. Western Oklahoma, and parts of North and South Carolina.
Does home insurance cover wildfire risk?
Fortunately, homeowners insurance usually covers wildfire risk. Depending on where you live and who your insurance company is, you may be required to create a foliage-free barrier between your home and the grass, trees, and shrubs that surround it. This defensible space, which can be anywhere from 30 to 100 feet, helps reduce the chance of a fire spreading to your home.
You should note, however, that some insurers do not cover wildfire risk in some areas. Moreover, some may adjust their underwriting of homes in wildfire zones if the risk continues to increase. This is why it’s important to review your home insurance every year to see if any changes affect your coverage.
How to protect your home from wildfires
While your home insurance is there to protect you if you do experience a wildfire, you also want to prevent a loss in the first place. The first step is to create a defensible space which means you should remove brush for fire prevention.
Another big problem for homes in wildfire areas are embers, so cover attic vents with a fine, metal mesh to prevent embers from entering. Open eaves can be a problem too. The eaves are the section of your roof that extends over the exterior walls. If you can see beams in the eaves, then embers can get caught in your eaves and start your house on fire. Debris in your gutters and on your roof can also increase your fire risk.
Essentially, look around your home for places where embers might enter and seal them off. These and other fire prevention tips can help keep your home and family safe.