Skip to main content

San Diego Among Top Cities For Homes At High Risk Of Wildfire Destruction

Parts of the Rancho Monserate Country Club in Fallbrook were completely destr...

Credit: Matt Hoffman/KPBS

Above: Parts of the Rancho Monserate Country Club in Fallbrook were completely destroyed by the Lilac Fire, Dec. 11, 2017.

The right weather conditions and a spark are all it takes to cause a devastating wildfire, and tens of thousands of homes in San Diego are at high-to-extreme risk to be in its wake.

The 2019 Wildfire Risk Report by CoreLogic, a real estate research firm, analyzed wildfire risk in the Western United States. It ranked Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Diego as the top three metropolitan cities, in terms of the number of homes, at high-to-extreme wildfire risk.

Listen to this story by Maya Trabulsi.

According to the report, Los Angeles has 121,589 residences, Riverside has 108,787 residences and San Diego has 75,096 residences in the high-to-extreme risk category. In 2018, California had the most burned acreage of any state in the region.

CoreLogic wildfire expert Tom Jeffery said approximately 80% of all wildfire ignitions are caused by humans.

RELATED: Firefighters Face More Than Just Physical Injuries When Battling Fires

“It's a situation where you have a large concentration of people located in an area that contains an equally large amount of fuels that are easily ignited, release a lot of heat energy when they burn,” Jeffery said. “California is such a large state, has a lot of high-risk area and the high-risk is really the type of fuels found in the state that are really contributory to wildfire risk.”

He said San Diego’s 2003 Cedar Fire is a classic example of a fire that burned from undeveloped land westward, causing a massive amount of destruction.

The proximity of property to fuel is the main driver of wildfire damage and destruction. Development has historically pushed eastward to areas with more dense brush, setting more homes and businesses against natural fuel in what is referred to as Wildland Urban Interface. Jeffery said in the last 15 to 20 years larger and more destructive fires are partially due to the location of homes.

“The conditions that led to the disasters of the last few years, ultimately, I think those are likely to persist. This doesn't mean that we're going to have a Tubbs Fire or Camp Fire every year, but really what I'm saying is that the potential for those types of disasters is a real consideration, every year,” said Jeffery.

While San Diego has a large number of homes in the high-risk category, Jeffery said it is important to point out that there are more homes that are at little-to-no risk for wildfire damage.

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

The Mission Valley Community Plan calls for increased mixed-use development that is pedestrian-friendly and helps residents make better use of public transit. Plus, tens of thousands of homes in San Diego are at high-to-extreme risk of wildfires, according to a new study by CoreLogic. Also on today’s podcast, a new therapy using pig hearts to treat heart attacks shows promising ... Read more →

Aired: September 12, 2019 | Transcript

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.