May 18, 2023

Adaptation Works: How Property Owners Can Reduce Wildfire Risk and Insurance Costs

| by ClimateCheck | 2 Minutes

A recent report by the Bay Area Council, a San Francisco-based business association, shows how property owners in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) can take proactive measures to significantly lower their wildfire risk — and ultimately reduce insurance premiums.

“We estimate that performing all three actions would yield an average reduction in expected loss per property of up to 75% in high-risk areas like the Town of Paradise, which corresponds to a 55% reduction in average total premium when the net cost of reinsurance is not considered,” the report states.

Here are the three strategies for adapting to increased risk of wildfire:

  • Individual property risk reduction: There should be a safe distance of at least five feet between structures and vegetation. Reducing combustible materials around a property and implementing other fire-resistant measures enhances protection against fire. Learn more about individual property risk reduction.
  • Wildfire Informed Development Patterns (WIDP): WIDP refers to strategic land use planning and rebuilding efforts that consider the risk of wildfires. Urban planners and developers can reduce fire risk by planning properties in areas with lower wildfire risk, like downtown cores. Parks and green space can serve as fire buffers within a community or development.
  • External buffers: Developers and planners can further protect towns and communities from fire by establishing well-maintained low-fire-risk green space around community borders.

The report was conducted on behalf of the town of Paradise, the site of 2018’s devastating Camp Fire. The wildfire — one of the most destructive and deadly in California history — killed 85 people and burned 11,000 homes to the ground. Paradise is located in California’s wildland urban interface (WUI), which refers to areas where development abuts the natural environment. More and more people are moving to WUI areas in the Western US.

The findings in the report highlight the power of translating knowledge about wildfire risk into actionable measures. Appropriate risk reduction strategies protect lives and property.

"Communities in the WUI can be made much safer and more resilient than they are today," Nancy Watkins, an actuary at Milliman and co-author of the report, told the Chico Enterprise Record. "Advanced modeling shows how communities can adopt building codes and land use measures that significantly reduce wildfire risk, which is an essential step to sustainable insurance in the WUI."

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