May 19, 2022 - News

New research shows where wildfires risk in Colorado is the highest

Projected percentage increase in properties with a moderate risk of burning
Note: Moderate risk is defined as at least a 0.03% risk of fire in a given year; Data: First Street Foundation; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

The threat of wildfires will increase exponentially across Colorado in the next 30 years, according to groundbreaking new research.

Why it matters: In the last six months, Coloradans have come to know wildfires as a near-constant, but new data is showing for the first time the risk probability for property owners.

  • Much like a flood map, the data is designed to help current and hopeful homeowners make informed decisions as climate change becomes more prominent.

Threat level: The National Weather Service in Boulder issued a fire weather watch for Thursday ahead of a major storm forecast to hit the state.

Zoom in: The new report, showing property-level fire risk, and its accompanying tool come from the nonprofit First Street Foundation.

  • The "fire factor" risk score seeks to capture the changing profile of individual properties, both in terms of exposure to wildfire and shifts in wildfire intensity, over the course of 30 years β€” the span of a typical mortgage.

What they found: Colorado is among the states with the largest risk increases.

  • The report finds that about 1 million properties β€” or 40% of the state's total β€” have some wildfire risk through 2052. Of these, 85,000 properties face at least a "moderate" risk, defined as having up to a 6% chance of experiencing a wildfire during the next 30 years.
  • The most at-risk properties are in El Paso, Douglas and La Plata counties.

What's next: Rising temperature and drought conditions are increasing the risk to an additional 18% of properties in the state, or 1.4 million total.

  • The greatest increases in risk will hit Broomfield, Gilpin and Pueblo counties, the report finds.

The bottom line: "A little more than one out of two single family homes across the country has at least some wildfire risks," Sara Brinton, lead product manager for realtor.com, told Axios.

  • "We think it's important for every American to have access to this type of information."

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