Two of every five homes (39.4%) in Utah face high fire risk, according to a new report from Redfin (redfin.com), the technology-powered real estate brokerage. That’s a larger share than any other Western U.S. state analyzed by Redfin.
Colorado and Idaho came in second and third place, with 19% and 14.4% of properties at high risk, respectively. Less than 10% of homes in the following states have high risk: Oregon, Nevada, California, Washington and Arizona.
That’s according to a Redfin analysis of county property records and risk scores from climate-data startup ClimateCheck. In the report, Redfin focuses on eight of the 11 states in the contiguous U.S. West: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. The remaining three—Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico—are excluded due to insufficient data.
The start of this year’s fire season coincides with an historic drought and record-breaking heat waves that are plaguing dozens of Western cities. It hit 116 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland, OR on Monday, which broke the previous record of 112 set on Sunday. Sunday’s record broke the 108-degree high set on Saturday, which surpassed the prior 107-degree record set in 1965.
While Utah doesn’t rank at the top of the list in terms of number of fires or acreage burned, it has a relatively high share of properties at risk—likely because the state’s most populous cities overlap with its most at-risk areas. Much of the state’s high fire risk lies in and around Salt Lake City, West Valley City and Provo—Utah’s three largest cities. By comparison, only one of Washington’s three most populous cities—Spokane—overlaps with substantial fire risk.
Utah has been growing faster than any other U.S. state, with a population that surged 18.4% to 3.3 million from 2010 to 2020. Idaho, which also faces substantial fire risk, came in second place. More than a third (35.7%) of Redfin.com home searches in the Salt Lake City metropolitan area came from outside of the metro in the first quarter, up from 26.8% a year earlier.
“Salt Lake City proper is relatively insulated from fires because it’s located in a valley, but much of the mountainous area surrounding it—especially the Wasatch Range to the east and the north—is covered with dry vegetation that’s prone to burning. A lot of people live in these mountains or right up against them,” said Ryan Aycock, Redfin’s market manager in Salt Lake City. “Many of the homes in Wasatch Range are farm communities or cabins, but there are also luxury homes at risk in Park City, a resort town that’s been very popular during the pandemic. Park City is a mix of vacation and primary homes, but we’ve recently seen an increase of families coming in from Seattle, California and New York to buy primary homes because they can work from anywhere and want to be near great skiing and hiking.”
Park City isn’t alone. Other vacation and migration destinations, including Bend, OR, Boise, ID and Lake Tahoe, CA, have seen scores of remote workers move in who now face fire risk.
In Dollar Terms, California Has More Housing in Danger, With Over $600 Billion of Properties at Risk
While Utah has the largest share of properties with high fire risk, California has the most property value in danger, with $628 billion worth of homes facing high fire risk. That’s because home values in California are relatively high. By comparison, Utah and Colorado have about $220 billion of homes with high risk, and the remaining states in this analysis have less than $75 billion of property at risk.
California is also the third largest state in terms of mileage, and is the densest state in the West, meaning there are more homes that can burn. In 2020, there were 10,431 fires in California that burned 4.1 million acres—more than any other state. Almost 40% of the acreage that burned across the U.S. last year was in California.
“Sellers who are in the market right now are rushing to get under contract because they know buyers may start rethinking their decisions when fire season worsens,” said Christopher Anderson, a Redfin real estate agent in Napa, CA. “But the truth of the matter is that once fire season ends, much of the fear fades away. We’ve seen a lot of people leave the area as wildfires have intensified, but they’re always replaced by new people who are willing to take the risk. Buyers do tend to have a preference for homes that have been fortified against fires because that means there’s one less task they have to deal with.”
To view this full report, including charts and methodology, please visit: https://www.redfin.com/news/wildfire-real-estate-risk-2021/
Redfin (www.redfin.com) is a technology-powered real estate broker, instant home-buyer (iBuyer), lender, title insurer, and renovations company. We sell homes for more money and charge half the fee. We also run the country’s #1 real-estate brokerage site. Our home-buying customers see homes first with on-demand tours, and our lending and title services help them close quickly. Customers selling a home can take an instant cash offer from Redfin or have our renovations crew fix up their home to sell for top dollar. Since launching in 2006, we’ve saved customers more than $1 billion in commissions. We serve more than 95 markets across the U.S. and Canada and employ over 4,100 people.
For more information or to contact a local Redfin real estate agent, visit www.redfin.com. To learn about housing market trends and download data, visit the Redfin Data Center. To be added to Redfin’s press release distribution list, email firstname.lastname@example.org.