In this year’s annual Wildfire Report, CoreLogic has identified 1,975,116 single-family home properties at moderate to extreme risk of wildfire damage from across the country’s 15 wildfire-prone states. These single-family residences have a combined reconstruction cost value (RCV) of more than $638 billion, and comprise approximately 6.5% of the total number of single-family homes in these states.

Out of the top 10 metro areas with the greatest single-family home loss potential, seven are located in California. Los Angeles ranks first with 154,462 homes at elevated risk and a total RCV of $90.31 billion, followed by Riverside, California, with 126,628 homes at elevated risk and an RCV of $50.62 billion.

“2017 and 2018 were incredibly destructive, record-setting years for wildfire, followed by a comparatively quieter 2019. When we talk about wildfire trends, it’s important to treat any decrease in fire activity as only temporary,” says Dr. Tom Jeffery, principal hazard scientist at CoreLogic. “Like most natural hazards, there is no reason to believe that the amount of wildfire acreage, or the number of homes in the path of future wildfires will be any less—and certainly the ongoing 2020 season is proof of that, well on its way to being among the most devastating in recent memory.”

Wildfires and COVID-19

COVID-19 poses a number of new challenges to wildfire preparation and safety this year. The pandemic has created a shortage of contractors that carry out the structure and landscape mitigation necessary to defend populated areas from wildfires, and a number of essential supplies—including toilet paper and cleaning items—are either tough to find or unavailable. In a wildfire event, the report says, these products and services would become even more difficult to obtain.

To prevent COVID-19 spread during the evacuation process, CoreLogic surmises that evacuation centers may need to limit their capacity for the sake of social distancing. In some cases, demand for this shelter could rise as high unemployment and economic struggles create more evacuees unable to obtain their own shelter. In others, fear of contracting COVID-19 could prevent some families from evacuating at all.

“Immediate response to a natural catastrophe is a key element in the resiliency of a community. The recovery will need to address the real and visible problem of damaged property, while simultaneously battling the invisible but equally daunting risk of COVID-19 infections. Leveraging technology to deploy recovery resources only when and where they are needed can help responders manage this multifaceted challenge,” says Tom Larsen, principal, content strategy, insurance solutions at CoreLogic.

In the immediate aftermath, displaced people may find themselves with limited resources at hand to get back on their feet. Hotels and restaurants are not back to full operation, and hospitals and first responders are stretched thin due to the demands of COVID-19. The long run is uncertain, though CoreLogic anticipates supply chain disruptions and a glut of insurance claims to be addressed by smaller staffs.

“The business landscape has changed tremendously in the past year, and, as a result, the insurance industry is having to ask the tough questions—how do I resolve a claim if I cannot assess their home in person? How can I assess risk without a home survey?” says Mick Noland, executive and general manager of insurance at CoreLogic. “Finding the answers will take a great deal of technological transformation, new tools, and big ideas.”

Click here to view the full report.