Many year-end reports for 2011 have been issued detailing the losses from 2011 disasters – including wildfire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, tornado and other natural hazard events. What stands out with 2011 is the tremendous cost that homeowners, government agencies, and insurance companies had to bear. Predictably, however, I pay most attention to the wildfire summaries. And I found that one recent report, “Natural Hazard Risk Summary and Analysis,” was particularly good at summing up the wildfire activity and damage in the U.S. The report was produced by CoreLogic’s Spatial Solutions division, and included this information as part of their research:
- While the 2011 wildfire season continued the trend of having fewer but larger wildfires, there was a significant geographic shift in home losses over the past year from California, which had a cooler and wetter-than-average fire season, to the drought-affected states of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
- In May, the largest fire in Arizona history, the Wallow fire, forced thousands of resident evacuations and burned more than 469,000 acres.
- Texas and Oklahoma experienced a record number of wildfires. The Bastrop fire in Texas alone resulted in more than 1,600 homes and structures destroyed and 34,000 acres burned.
- Wildfire trends indicate that wildfire activity often follows a cyclical pattern of increase and decrease due to changing seasonal weather patterns. Based on this, parts of California are expected to see a dramatic increase in wildfire acreage next year.
- Persistent and intensifying drought conditions forecast for a large section of the U.S. for the coming year is expected to intensify and spread wildfire activity in early 2012.
You’ll notice that the last two bullets make predictions for 2012. I can’t imagine anyone is excited to read these predictions, but it does effectively underscore our industry’s mantra: “It’s not if, but when.” This gives us all the more reason to keep our families and property safe in the New Year by following Firewise principles and learning more about becoming a Fire Adapted Community. We look forward to providing you with wildfire safety information and tips in 2012 and wish you a Happy New Year!