By most measures, California usually tops the list of the states most at risk of fires, but a new report shows the state’s residents and their desires to stay warm in chillier months may be making the state even riskier.
Researchers examined internet searches for search terms that can pose the greatest household fire dangers, such as space heaters, heater blankets and candles.
Their report, which comes from real estate investors specializing in fire damage, firecashbuyers.com, shows California is the riskiest state in terms of such searches, with Colorado and New York following with the highest fire dangers. Hawaii had the lowest risk of fire hazards.
The researchers analyzed the search volume in each state of multiple items relating to fire hazards. The search volume for every term in each state was combined to determine the ranking.
California had an average monthly search volume for these items of 187.32 per 100,000 people. “Candles” was the state’s most popular search term, according to the report. Candles are accountable for roughly 7,200 residential fires in the U.S. each year, with December having the highest occurrence compared to any other month, the report shows.
Tom Larsen, associate vice president for hazard and risk management at catastrophe modeling firm CoreLogic, said information like that which is called out in the report is important because fires are all-to-often started by people.
“A lot of wildfires are inadvertent human ignitions,” Larsen said.
While safety standards have improved over the years with better wiring and improved fireproofing making homes safer, fires are still a big concern for public safety and risk managers.
“Homes are safer today than they were 50 years ago,” Larsen said.
However, he added that wildfires represent a bigger proportion of homeowners payouts today than they did in the past, as fires in California in particular have become larger and more severe in recent times.
“And that changes the nature of insurance,” he said.
Californians got a bit of a break in 2023, with a relatively mild year for wildfires following four years of record-setting blazes across the state. Cal Fire data shows that as of mid-November, a total of 7,477 fires burned 319,948 acres. This was well below the state’s five-year average of 1.602 million acres burned.
The state continues to be considered the riskiest for fire hands down. California ranks highest for having the most at-risk homes with 1.28 million in that category with an estimated total reconstruction value of $760.8 billion, according to CoreLogic’s wildfire risk report out in late August.
The CoreLogic report shows the Los Angeles area being the riskiest (242,187 at-risk homes) with a total reconstruction value of $182.9 billion, followed by Riverside (212,902) with a reconstruction value of $111.7 billion, San Diego (153,981) with a reconstruction value of $95.4 billion, Sacramento (101,441) with a reconstruction value of $59.9, and San Francisco (92,824) with a reconstruction value of $64.9 billion.
Colorado was another risky state with several cities with a high number of at-risk homes and a high total reconstruction value. Denver, Colorado’s 69,284 at-risk homes had a reconstruction value of $32.6 billion, and Colorado Springs, Colorado’s 51,321 at-risk homes had a reconstruction value of $22.1 billion. Texas was also featured on the CoreLogic list. Austin Texas had 91,961 at-risk homes with a reconstruction value of $40.0 billion, and San Antonio, Texas had 71,795 at-risk homes with a reconstruction value of $27.0 billion.
Colorado was also the second riskiest state on the firecashbuyers.com list, with 182.86 average monthly Google searches per 100,000. One of the state’s most popular Google searches was “space heaters,” the report shows.
Third in that ranking was New York, which received an average monthly search volume of 180.43 for every 100,000. Like California, “candles” was the most searched term in the state.
Kansas placed fourth in the list, taking an average monthly search volume of 177.92 for every 100,000. Searches for “electric blankets” were high in Kansas. Fifth in the ranking was Massachusetts, with an average total of 167.98 monthly searches per 100,000. People in the state most searched for “electric blankets.”
Other Western states on the list included Oregon, with a total average monthly search volume of 166.46 per 100,000 people. “Wood burners” were one of the most popular search terms in this state. Washington, with an average monthly search volume of 163.35 per 100,000, ranked 10th on the list. “Candle” was the most popular fire-hazard related search term in Washington.
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