Friday, September 13, 2019 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

Austin ranks in the top five cities in the U.S. for potential wildfire damage

A new report from a California-based market research firm finds that Austin ranks fifth in a list of cities facing the highest reconstruction costs due to potential wildfire damage.

Researchers with CoreLogic found that 53,984 Austin residents live within an area designated as having a high-to-extreme wildfire risk, representing the potential for roughly $16 billion in reconstruction costs.

The four cities outpacing Austin are all in California: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and Sacramento.


“As Austin expands outward, obviously it’s growing into areas where you have a lot of brush, a lot of vegetation growth,” said CoreLogic senior hazard scientist Tom Jeffery. “If a wildfire were to occur, there’s a lot that’s going to fuel that fire and it can turn into a large fire — not only physically large, but intense.”

According to the same report, 569,811 acres burned in 2018 in Texas, while nearly double that number burned in California in the same year.

Jeffery says that while Californians may be more aware of the wildfire threat because of the frequency of fires, Texans should still consider wildfire an active threat. He cited the Bastrop County fires of 2011, which destroyed 1,600 homes and killed two people.

“Like any hazard, if it doesn’t happen for a few years people start to not think about it as being as important,” says Jeffery.

Earlier this week, Austin City Council members approved nearly $3.5 million for wildfire mitigation in their latest budget.

Find your wildfire risk using this tool developed by the Texas A&M Forest Service.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Mose Buchele.

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