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CoreLogic finds Oklahoma at lowest risk for wildfire among Western states

The Santa Ana, Calif.-based firm counted zero Oklahoma homes at “very high risk” and just 80 at “high risk” based on the way it categorizes urban and agricultural settings. The lack of natural fuels in both urban and agricultural landscapes gives them “low wildfire risk,” the firm said.
by Richard Mize Modified: September 11, 2012 at 9:52 pm •  Published: September 12, 2012

Some 40 percent of homes in the U.S. are in such transitional areas, Botts said, “and windblown embers are capable of igniting homes located hundreds or even thousands of feet away from an actual fire.”

Despite the losses and the eruption of widespread fires the past few years, CoreLogic noted that Oklahoma isn't known for significant numbers of wildfires.

Drought and wind

Drought and high winds, however, are creating risk here that can't be ignored, according to the firm, which studied Oklahoma, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Wyoming and Washington.

The combination of drought and wind in Oklahoma “underscores the importance of evaluating wildfire risk in areas with less active histories that tend to be overlooked,” CoreLogic said in the report, dated Aug. 23. “It is as yet unknown what the total amount of insured losses will be, but given the extent and extreme nature of the current fires, the 2012 wildfires in Oklahoma may well be the worst in state history.”

Incidentally, CoreLogic's study period ended the day after the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved assistance for homeowners in Creek County but did not extend aid to homeowners in Oklahoma, Cleveland and Payne counties. Wildfires destroyed hundreds of homes in those areas July 28-Aug. 14.

Doak called the rejections “bureaucratic” and “cruel” and noted that 227 of the destroyed homes were in the counties where aid was denied. Gov. Mary Fallin formally appealed FEMA's decision last Thursday.

Be prepared

“Firefighters throughout our state have done a tremendous job protecting as many homes as possible,” Doak said Tuesday in a prepared statement. “Still, the last several weeks have been very difficult in terms of wildfires. I've seen the hardest-hit areas firsthand. With most of our state still in ‘extreme' or ‘exceptional' drought conditions, all Oklahomans must continue to be prepared for wildfires and learn how to protect themselves through Firewise and other educational programs.”

Understanding wildfire risk is important for lessening the impact of disaster, Botts said.

“Accurately identifying risk levels, even in areas where wildfire activity has historically been low, is imperative to mitigating the potentially devastating effect of fires to property and on human life,” Botts said.

by Richard Mize
Real Estate Editor
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman's weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999. From 1989 to 1999, he worked...
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