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The True Cost of Wildfires

It goes way beyond wildfire mitigation and response.

It is pretty obvious to emergency managers that the true cost of disasters goes way beyond the physical destruction and the cost of the response. Disaster recovery can go on for many years and the human impact to people and their lives might be what we call immeasurable. Who would not remember the day one's home burned or the entire community was consumed by a wildfire, Exhibit A: The 2018 Campfire that burned out the town of Paradise.

I also am thinking about all the impacts of COVID 19 and the pandemic that disrupted so many lives. What is the dollar figure for that? I've got two teachers in my immediate family and the impact to children moving forward out of the pandemic has been huge. I don't think we will be closing schools as an immediate measure in future pandemic—depending on the situation and lethality of the disease impacting people.

Well, for wildfires there is a study that undertook a project to study the impact of wildfires, see The True Cost of Wildfire in the Western U.S.

Quoting from just one part of the study, see this:

"Although this report covers the geographic area of the entire Western U.S., California is mentioned more than other states for several reasons: it has sustained the largest amount of property destruction from wildfire
(59,000+ structures destroyed between 2005 and 2020, compared to 5,000+ in Texas, the next highest amount); it accounts for all 10 of the top 10 most costly wildfires in terms of insured losses between 2007 and 2020 (Aon Insurance and, 2021); and it contains six out of 10 of the counties across the nation that have the highest property values at risk from wildfire."

This should be an important study that you can use moving forward to categorize the risk when doing your Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA)
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.