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Sunshine State Could See Higher Risk of Property-Destroying Wildfires

Perhaps the rain from hurricanes can help extinguish the wildfires.

That may be the only silver lining to computer modeling reports suggesting that just as hurricanes and flooding from tropical storms are likely to increase in Florida in coming years, so will the risk of wildfires across large parts of the state.

A report from First Street Foundation, published Monday, predicts that the risk of wildfire in South and Central Florida will double by 2052.

“Florida is already a hot place, and it’s seeing an increase,” Matthew Eby, executive director of the climate research organization, told the Miami Herald. “What you end up with is a pronounced effect of the changes of wildfire risk.”

Trees downed by hurricanes produce fuel for wildfires, the Herald noted. Another problem for Florida is density. The state already sees its share of wildfires in drier months, but those have often been in more rural areas. As the state continues to grow in population and becomes more developed, more properties are at risk of burning, a growing concern for property insurance interests.

First Street’s report shows that in 2022, six Florida counties ranked in the top 20 for properties with an elevated chance of burning. Polk County scored highest at number five, with 335,000 properties at risk, according to the group’s 5th National Risk Assessment. Florida now has more than 3.93 million parcels at risk, not far behind California, with 4.65 million properties, and Texas, with 4.56 million.

The number of properties in fire’s way will increase as the climate warms, the report said. Central and South Florida will see elevated numbers, but so will northern parts of the state under some scenarios. Counties in other Southern states, including five counties in Georgia, could also see increased risk of property losses in the next three decades.

“Enhanced understanding of the specific nature and location of wildfire risk enables communities to more effectively lobby for funding for fuel treatments, prescribed burns, and other wildfire risk mitigation strategies that may be used to reduce risk to houses, businesses, and communities across the U.S.,” the report noted.

First Street provides a search tool on its website, which allows users to search the long-term risk of floods and wildfires by location.

Map: First Street Foundation showing some counties Florida with as great a risk of fires as parts of the Western United States in the next 30 years.

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