Growing danger of losing your home to a wildfire
MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new study out of UC Merced finds the risk of losing your home to a wildfire could double over the next forty years.
The professor behind the study says a combination of climate change, population growth, and land development will all contribute to a higher fire risk. The report comes as the state is starting to send out bills for fire prevention in some areas.
Hot temperatures and dry conditions are always a dangerous combination for fires in Central California. And now a new study by UC Merced Professor Anthony Westerling finds the risk of having your home destroyed by a fire could double over the next four decades.
The report points out more people are building homes in wilderness areas, which increases the chance for destructive wildfires. Calfire Unit Chief Nancy Koerperich says that correlation makes sense.
Chief Koerperich said, "When you are trying to put more and more homes into thicker vegetation you do run the risk that you're going to have more liabilities to protecting that property."
The study also finds many areas will be at greater risk as the climate gets warmer. But the author, and Koerperich agree there are ways to help minimize fire danger.
Chief Koerperich explained, "We ask people to clear their property 30 feet and then have an additional 70 feet to have one hundred feet of clearance so that does help if there is a wild land fire in their area."
And now the state is taking a controversial new step to help pay for fire prevention efforts in the wake of budget cuts. More than 825-thousand home owners in rural areas served by Calfire will start getting bills in the mail this month for up to $150.00 per year. That includes people living in Catheys Valley. Doris Baumann says she doesn't mind paying.
"I'm paranoid about the fire season this year," Baumann said. "We've already had one fire up here burn 16-hundred acres about a month ago."
But Stephen Saunders is worried this new funding plan will spread faster than any fire.
Saunders said, "When you go down a road of opening up a fee or a tax, it never goes away, and so when they find out that they want more, what's to stop them from just raising it?"
Those bills should start arriving at homes this month, and they will continue being sent out through the end of the year. Some anti-tax groups are threatening to file lawsuits against the state as a result.
u.c. merced, widlfire, local, sara sandrik
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