CHN Blog

What California regions are most at risk for wildfires?

Nine of the 15 regions most at risk for wildfires are in California. Also, all hail San Diego, the nation’s solar-panel king. And if you’re the cash-and-carry type, you better have a big wheelbarrow and decades to spare to pay cash for a home in the state.

Wildfires have become a critical issue in California — and the West. In fact, nine of the 15 metro areas most at risk for wildfires are in California, including the top four, according to CoreLogic.

Los Angeles faces the greatest risk in the U.S., with 121,600 residents living in extreme risk areas. If a wildfire burned through the extreme risk areas, the reconstruction costs would top $71 billion — or about 10% of the annual gross domestic product of Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles-area’s fire risk is almost double the $41 billion of second-place Riverside, about 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.

San Diego is a close third at $35.8 billion in potential reconstruction costs, followed by Sacramento at $27.5 billion.

About 90 miles north of downtown Sacramento, a fast-moving fire destroyed the foothill community of Paradise in November 2018. The fire in the foothill community was the deadliest in California history.

The Camp Fire, which burned through Paradise, is an example of the wildfire risk in the West. As communities expand, development becomes closer to high-risk wildfire areas, posing a serious risk to residents and structures.

Many property owners in high-risk fire areas are enduring hefty insurance premiums, if they can even get insurance, according to media reports. 

Camp Fire burns trees in Paradise in November 2018. Tina Lawhon/Shutterstock

The most at-risk communities for wildfires in California (ranked by reconstruction costs):

  1. Los Angeles: $71 billion
  2. Riverside: $41 billion
  3. San Diego: $35.8 billion
  4. Sacramento: $27.5 billion
  5. San Francisco: $16.3 billion
  6. Truckee: $10.9 billion
  7. Oxnard: $10.2 billion
  8. Redding: $6.44 billion
  9. Salinas: $6.4 billion

The fire risk is also starting to affect home values, especially in Los Angeles and other most at-risk regions, according to a Redfin report.

“Southern California is such a desirable area that residents generally put up with the negatives, like several weeks of fire and smoke each year and paying high premiums for home insurance. But I think this year is a turning point,” says Lindsay Katz, a Redfin agent in Los Angeles. “People who live here and people buying homes here are getting fed up because not only are the wildfires particularly bad right now, but they’ve been relentless over the last few years.”

Just east of Sacramento in El Dorado County, fast-rising homeowners’ insurance premiums coupled with Pacific Gas & Electric’s planned power shutoffs to reduce the fire risk are taking their toll.

“It hit me about a month ago that the new normal in our area includes scheduled electricity blackouts to allow utilities time to rebuild and upgrade infrastructure, which is giving buyers pause but will help property values in rural communities in the long run,” says Ellie Ruiz Hitchcock, a Redfin agent in El Dorado County. “Sellers are struggling right now as often the best-case scenario is settling for a lower sale price than they would have gotten a year ago, and the worst-case scenario is holding off on entering the market until the fires and blackouts settle down.” 

Feature photo of fire in Anaheim Hills by Aarti Kalyani/Shutterstock

San Diego is solar panel leader in U.S.

San Diego is known for many things, including beautiful beaches, near-perfect weather year-round and a world-renowned zoo. 

The region deserves some national recognition for also boasting the most solar-panel systems installed on single-family homes in the nation, according to Cape Analytics.

San Diego has 10,195 homes with solar panels, well ahead of second-place San Francisco at 6,031. In fact, California cities earned the top five spots in the nation, with Riverside in third place followed by San Jose and Los Angeles, respectively.

Of course, higher-earning homeowners are more likely to purchase solar-panel systems, since they can cost more than $20,000. 

How dominant is California in the solar panel market? California’s five cities on the list, from San Diego to San Jose, had a total of almost 31,500 homes with solar panels — easily larger than the other 25 cities on the list combined.

How dominant is California in the race for the solar panel title? California has 95 of the top 100 cities with the most solar panels in the U.S.

Brentwood has the most solar panels at 14,844 in the nation, followed close behind by Santee at 14,829.

Less than 2% of homes in the U.S. have solar-panel systems, according to Capa Analytics.

Photo of solar panels on tile roofs in California by Simone Hogan/Shutterstock

Want to pay cash for a CA home? Come on, get a life

Saving for a house is tough, regardless of where you live in California, from Redding to San Diego.

But what if you wanted to bypass the bank, skip the lengthy mortgage and just pay cash for the purchase?

It would take a lot of time. In some cases, a lifetime.

PropertyClub crunched the data and determined if you saved 30% of your annual income — hey, you still have living expenses, including rent — it would take 81 years to purchase the median-priced home with cash in San Francisco. That’s the longest time in the U.S. and exceeds the average lifetime.

Check out how long it would take to save enough money for all-cash purchases in seven cities in the state:

  • San Jose: 62 years, the same as the peak in 2006.
  • Oakland: 46 years; down from 49 years in 2006.
  • Los Angeles: 43 years, down from 54 years in 2006.
  • San Diego: 42 years, down from the 54 years in 2005.
  • Long Beach: 39 years, down from the50 years in 2006.
  • Sacramento: 19 years, down from 30 years in 2006.
  • Fresno 14 years, down from 25 years in 2006.

Photo of Fresno home by Richard Thornton/Shutterstock

Ron Trujillo

Ron Trujillo

Longtime business journalist-turned-communications executive who enjoys reporting on residential real estate in his spare time.