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Which U.S. counties are at the greatest risk for wildfire damage?


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Which U.S. counties are at the greatest risk for wildfire damage?

Burnt forest after the Trap Creek wildfire in Idaho in September 2020.

Wildfires have become more prevalent in the U.S. over the last few decades. Like many other climate events, they can have a devastating effect on communities, destroying buildings and homes, closing businesses, damaging agriculture and changing the local ecology. Ultimately, with the increase in wildfires, some insurance companies have pulled their services out of specific areas, as the risk of damage goes up.

To help identify where wildfires are most prevalent, and residents are most at risk, SmartAsset evaluated the most recent FEMA data to rank U.S. counties based on their projected financial losses per person each year due to wildfires.



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Key findings

Map showing impact of wildfires by county: projected damages per person.

  • Idaho is most at risk when it comes to wildfires. Three counties in particular top the list for expected wildfire damages. Adams County has the highest projected losses per person due to wildfires nationwide at $1,287. In third place is Boise County with expected damages of $1,137 per person. Idaho County then ranks sixth with $904. 
  • This California county has the most projected damages per person. Mariposa County is the only California county that made the top 10, with a ninth-place ranking and $720 expected damages per person. Sierra County ranks second in California, 22nd nationwide and has $594 projected damages. Plumas County ranks third in California, 41st nationwide with $397 per person. Statewide, California ranks sixth for most expected damages per person.
  • Irion and Borden Counties in Texas are at risk for $1,000 in wildfire damages per person. Irion County ranks fourth-highest in the U.S. for projected losses per person due to wildfire at $1,002. Borden County meanwhile faces a projected risk of $976 per person. Statewide, the projected risk across Texas is much smaller at $8.25 per person.
  • Nationwide, the average of expected damages per person due to wildfire is $26. This is more than hail ($25.40 per person); drought ($20.42); cold fronts ($3.62); heat waves ($7.50); ice storms ($7.64); landslides ($3.86); lightning ($4.23); tsunamis ($0.04); volcanoes ($0.51); and winter weather ($7.91). On the other hand, more financial damage per person is expected from tornadoes ($54.89); hurricanes ($53.57); flooding ($32.41); earthquakes ($29.62); and strong winds ($26.46).


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Top 10 counties with most financial risk per person due to wildfire

Table showing counties most at risk of wildfire damages.

  1. Adams County, ID
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $1,287
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $1,383
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 59
  2. Eureka County, NV
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $1,190
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $3,045
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 5
  3. Boise County, ID
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $1,137
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $1,286
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 66
  4. Irion County, TX
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $1,002
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $1,223
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 74
  5. Borden County, TX
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $976
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $2,164
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 17
  6. Idaho County, ID
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $905
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $1,036
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 123
  7. Elko County, NV
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $897
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $985
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 147
  8. Catron County, NM
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $811
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $874
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 193
  9. Mariposa County, CA
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $720
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $865
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 201
  10. Valley County, ID
    Annual expected loss from wildfire: $693
    Annual expected loss across all climate events: $744
    Rank of expected annual loss across all climate events: 281

Data and methodology

Expected annual loss estimates are normalized for each state’s population. Data comes from FEMA and includes projected costs in one year of agricultural, building and population damage done by wildfire. For annual loss expected across all climate events, it also includes the estimated cost of coastal flooding, cold wave, drought, earthquake, hail, heat wave, hurricane, ice storm, landslide, lightning, riverine flooding, strong wind, tornado, tsunami, volcanic activity and winter weather.

This story was produced by SmartAsset and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.


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