Ranking counties by wildfire financial risks: FEMA data analysis

May 22, 2024
wildfire firefighters

Idaho counties face highest wildfire risks

Wildfires have increasingly affected U.S. communities, causing extensive damage to homes, businesses, agriculture, and local ecosystems.

This has led some insurance companies to withdraw from high-risk areas.

To identify the most vulnerable regions, SmartAsset analyzed the latest FEMA data, ranking U.S. counties based on projected financial losses per person from wildfires.

According to SmartAsset’s findings, Idaho is the most at-risk state for wildfire damages.

Adams County tops the national list with projected annual losses of $1,287 per person.

Boise County follows in third place with $1,137, and Idaho County ranks sixth with $904 in expected damages per person.

California county with the highest wildfire damages

Mariposa County is the only California county in the top ten, ranking ninth with expected losses of $720 per person.

Other California counties at significant risk include Sierra County, ranking 22nd nationwide with $594 in damages per person, and Plumas County, ranking 41st with $397 per person.

Statewide, California ranks sixth for most expected damages per person.

Texas counties at risk of high wildfire damages

Irion and Borden Counties in Texas also face substantial wildfire risks.

Irion County ranks fourth nationwide with projected losses of $1,002 per person, while Borden County follows closely at fifth with $976.

However, the overall wildfire risk across Texas is lower, with an average of $8.25 per person.

Nationwide, the average expected damages per person due to wildfires is $26.

This is slightly higher than the expected losses from hail ($25.40) and drought ($20.42), but less than those from tornadoes ($54.89), hurricanes ($53.57), and flooding ($32.41).

Top 10 counties with the highest financial risk per person due to wildfires

  1. Adams County, ID: $1,287
  2. Eureka County, NV: $1,190
  3. Boise County, ID: $1,137
  4. Irion County, TX: $1,002
  5. Borden County, TX: $976
  6. Idaho County, ID: $905
  7. Elko County, NV: $897
  8. Catron County, NM: $811
  9. Mariposa County, CA: $720
  10. Valley County, ID: $693

The data from FEMA includes projected costs for one year of agricultural, building, and population damage caused by wildfires.

The analysis also considers expected annual losses from other climate events like coastal flooding, cold waves, drought, earthquakes, hail, hurricanes, ice storms, landslides, lightning, riverine flooding, strong winds, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, and winter weather.

FSJA Comment

The analysis by SmartAsset using FEMA data highlights the increasing financial risks posed by wildfires in various U.S. counties.

Idaho emerges as the most vulnerable state, with three counties ranked in the top ten for expected wildfire damages per person.

This indicates a heightened need for robust wildfire management and prevention strategies in these areas.

In California, Mariposa County’s inclusion in the top ten underscores the state’s ongoing struggle with wildfire risks, despite extensive mitigation efforts.

Overall, the average expected damages from wildfires across the U.S. reveal the widespread impact of these events, which surpass other climate-related risks like hail and drought but remain lower than those from tornadoes and hurricanes.

This data-driven insight is crucial for policymakers, insurers, and residents in preparing for and mitigating the financial impacts of wildfires.

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