More than 22 percent of the homes in Los Angeles County face danger from potential wildfires, an insurance organization reported today.
Fire conditions could worsen this weekend when Santa Ana winds kick up, said Candysse Miller of the Insurance Information Network of California.
While other Western states have survived a relatively mild brush fire season, California typically faces its greatest danger from October through early November, when winds peak. Miller said.
According to new research by the California Department of Forestry, more than 7.2 million California homes are categorized in the three highest fire risk levels -- more than 6 million of which are located in urban areas.
These include Los Angeles County, with more than 734,000 homes at risk, or 22.5 percent of all the homes in the county; and San Diego County, with more than 619,000, or 59.5 percent, at risk.
The estimated 585,000 homes categorized in the highest risk level statewide pose a potential financial loss of at least $106 billion, according to CDF projections.
The fire danger is compounded by years of drought-like conditions and the ravages of a bark beetle infestation that has turned California forests into tinderboxes just waiting for a spark, according to the group.
"The clear and present threat of devastating wildfires should be a concern to all Californians," Miller said. "Few communities are immune from the deadly combination of fierce October winds and the effects of summer's traditional lack of rain."
As fire season moves into its most dangerous time of year, IINC urged homeowners to take measures to reduce their home's wildfire risks by landscaping with fire resistant plants, developing a family evacuation plan and documenting a home inventory.
Property owners should also make sure their insurance coverage keeps pace with the rising cost of rebuilding their homes and replacing their possessions.
Homeowners in communities at greatest risk of wildfire are also encouraged to join or form Fire Safe Councils, which bring the public and private sectors together to protect their communities from wildfire.
Additional fire prevention tips, fire-resistant landscaping advice and a home inventory guide can be found on the IINC Web site at http://www.iinc.org .
IINC is a non-profit, non-lobbying insurance trade association dedicated to helping consumers understand insurance and safety issues.
Copyright 2003 City News Service, Inc.
City News Service
October 22, 2003 Wednesday