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Sonoma, Napa wildfires threaten $65 billion in residential property, says analytics firm

CoreLogic’s fire hazard formula estimates 10,000 area homes in danger

Destroyed homes in Santa Rosa’s Foxtail Court neighborhood.
Destroyed homes in Santa Rosa’s Foxtail Court neighborhood.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

The fires ravaging Northern California continue to grow. The LA Times reported Wednesday morning that “strong winds forecast for Wednesday evening and Thursday morning [may] spread embers from the deadly Tubbs fire to populated areas of Santa Rosa and Calistoga.”

The publication estimates 100,000 acres burned and at least 17 dead with still no end in sight.

Meanwhile, California-based property analytics firm CoreLogic chimed in with a rough assessment of how bad things could get in the area.

CoreLogic estimated that nearly 2,600 homes in Napa County are at “high risk” or “extreme risk” from wildfires, with more than 8,400 homes at risk in Sonoma Rosa (which the firm inaccurately labels “Santa Rosa County.”)

What does that mean? A 2016 CoreLogic report estimating potential wildfire damage in different states defines the terms that the firm uses, which are based on the density of housing and potential wildfire fuels nearby, plus the lay of the land and the area’s history of blazes.

The firm the translated that information into a 1-100 score for each home:

Smoke billows over Santa Rosa homes.
Santa Rosa’s Oakmont neighborhood.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Properties with a wildfire risk score over 80 [“Extreme Risk”] have the highest exposure to wildfire risk and are the most likely to suffer damage should a fire occur. [...High Risk] properties, which have a wildfire risk score between 61 and 80, are less vulnerable to wildfire damage but are still at an elevated level of risk.

[...] In 2015, the amount of area consumed by wildfires in the U.S. topped 10 million acres for the first time, recording a comprehensive total of 10,125,149 acres according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Based on this past analysis, CoreLogic estimates that of 133,985 residential properties that are assessed at potential risk in Sonoma County, 8,471 are in at least High Risk areas. In Napa County, it’s 2,585 homes out of 38,130.

All told though, roughly 200,000 homes are potentially at risk for some degree of fire damage in both counties. And the potential cost in the region for rebuilding from all of that: up to $65 billion.

Note that these are educated estimates, made in a hypothetical model a year ahead of time. Indeed, the outcome of the current disaster might end up testing how good CoreLogic’s predictions are.

But of course, for California residents waiting to find out the fate of their livelihoods and possessions, such questions are entirely academic, and the task of tabulating costs must take a backseat to the immediate humanitarian crisis.

A stumps continues to burn in a neighborhood destroyed by fire near Cardinal Newman High School on October 10, 2017 in Santa Rosa
A Santa Rosa neighborhood near Cardinal Newman High School.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images