A recent study indicates that the size and intensity of fires across the US – caused in part by climate changes – have increased, creating record amounts of damage to homes.

Be this as it may, the scale, frequency, and intensities of these disasters, though cyclical, remain unpredictable. 

With that said, here are America’s 15 most exposed metro areas in descending order.

15.) Edwards, Colorado

Edwards, Colorado
Image Credit: Facebook/Edwards Colorado

The town of Edward is a relatively small community in Vail Valley, Eagle County. It is a low-key resort hub with a community of 13,506 residences. 

If a fire were to strike here the expected reconstruction could cost around $8.9 billion.

Online wildfire risk assessment tool, Risk Factor, claims that a fire in the area would not only damage property but also cut off access roads and evacuation routes.

14.) Bend, Oregon

Bend, Oregon
Image Credit: bendoregon.gov

Being a small resort city on the Deschutes River proximal to lakes and waterfalls does not make Bend immune to the threat of wildfire. 

The location is home to the Ponderosa pine forests and has a history of blazes that date as far back as 1990. 

One such blaze, known as the Awbrey Hall Fire, consumed 16 houses in three hours. 

The wildfire jumped across two main roads and the Deschutes River and by the time it had finished, laid waste to 22 properties.

An assessment by data analytics company, Core Logic, indicates that 24,755 residences are currently at risk. It estimates $10.2 billion would be needed to rebuild the area if a wildfire were to get out of control there.

13.) Redding, California

Redding, California
Image Credit: Facebook/City of Redding

Located in Shasta County, Redding is the cultural and economic center of Cascade and the largest city north of Sacramento.

Laying 230 miles north of San Francisco, Redding is surrounded by trees and California’s largest forest – Shasta-Trinity National Forest (STNF) – which covers 2.2 million acres of land and is home to 6,278 miles of rivers and streams.

The local Community Planning Assistance for Wildlife (CPAW) claims that the area has at least 100 fires every year.

Statistics project that there are 28,271 vulnerable homes in the area, and the reconstruction costs would reach $11.4 billion if a wildfire were to get the better of Redding.

12.) Salinas, California

Salinas, California
Image Credit: Facebook/ Salinas City Center

Also known as the “Salad Bowl of the World,” Salinas in California is a major contributor to the agriculture sector and supplies the country with 80% of its lettuce and artichokes.  As a testimony to its historical importance, it was the city with the highest income per capita in 1924.

The city has a history of fires that date back to 1911. Since then there has been an average of four fires per annum typically burning out around 17,000 acres of land.  

The city could potentially lose 18,380 residences to wildfires at an estimated reconstruction cost of $13 billion.

11.) Santa Rosa, California

Santa Rosa, California
Image Credit: Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce

Located in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa’s biggest contribution to US agriculture stems from its wineries. One of the most memorable blazes to affect Santa Rosa started on October 8, 2017, at 22h00.

The fire flared up in the wildlands north of Calistoga and is believed to have been the result of a high-tension electric cable arcing causing sparks to hit the ground. It took the blaze three hours to reach Santa Rosa and when the smoke cleared, nine people were dead and 3,098 buildings destroyed.

Currently, 23,920 residences are estimated to be at risk, setting the projected reconstruction cost at $15.8 billion.

10.) Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs, Colorado
Image Credit: Instagram/ ninamayerritchie

At an elevation of 6,035 ft, the city of Colorado Springs nestles at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains. Pikes Peak is a visible landmark towering above the Pike National Forest which abounds with hiking trails.

Wildfire watchdog, Risk Factor, notes that there have been two major fires in the area between 1984 and 2021. In June 2012, a blaze ravaged a total of 51,200 acres and 1,237 buildings.

The total amount of homes vulnerable, should a wildfire strike, is as high as 39,854 with the cost of rebuilding in the fire’s wake an estimated $17.4 billion.

9.) Truckee, California

Truckee, California
Image Credit: Truckee Chamber of Commerce

This Californian town is incorporated into Nevada County 

Like numerous other communities faced with wildfire hazards, Truckee is located close to conservation areas like the Tahoe National Forest in the North of Sierra Nevada.

The protected area spans 850,000 acres of public land and 350,000 acres of private land.

Risk Factor dubbs the town a “major” wildfire hazard and states that the 43,674 residences are at risk and will be for the next three decades. The estimated overall reconstruction for the area should a wildfire ravage it, is expected to cost $20.9 billion. 

8.) Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado
Image Credit: denver.org

The capital of Colorado is home to 2,963,000 people and as the gateway to skiing in the rocky mountains, lies at an elevation of 5279 ft. 

The most memorable fire in this city’s history struck in the early hours of April 19, 1863.

It broke out at a saloon and burned slowly at first but soon gathered impetus and reduced the fledgling city’s central business district to embers. 

Today, with its 2,2 million trees and its status as an Urban Forest ecosystem, the city is still considered a wildfire hazard.

A fire in the area would threaten as many as 57,371 homes, and if unabated, could cause damage to the value of $25.9 billion.

7.) Austin, Texas

Austin, Texas
Image Credit: University of Texas at Austin

This part of Texas has a burgeoning outdoor activity scene that includes numerous parks and lakes and is popular for hiking, biking, swimming, and boating. 

The McKinney Falls State Park lies at the confluence of Onion and Williamson creeks and is home to more than 700 acres of woods and cypress trees.

Austin had a clear streak between 1984 and 2021. This streak broke in 2011, however, when the Bastrop County Complex Fire consumed 32,000 acres along with 96% of the Bastrop State Park. 

It gutted over 1,600 homes, killed two people, and caused the largest per-capita loss in the history of America.

A blaze of similar intensity today is capable of destroying 64,768 residences while causing damage to the value of $27.3 billion.

6.) Oxnard, California

Oxnard, California
Image Credit: Facebook/Downtown Oxnard

The Pacific seaside city of Oxnard, known for its beaches, small-town feel, and agricultural heritage, is a fire hazard because of its drought conditions and heat. Climate change advocates, Climate Check, indicates that 52% of its buildings are a fire risk.

The last fire in his city occured at a factory and destroyed the building resulting in road and school closures. This blaze was considered the largest in the city’s recent history.

The vulnerable residences in Oxnard, according to Core Logic, are as many as 39,918 with a projected reconstruction cost of $27.4 billion should they be affected by an uncontrolled blaze.

5.) San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California
Image Credit: Facebook/San Francisco

Officially, The City and County of San Francisco is the commercial, cultural, and financial seat of Northern California. Not far from the city lies the Twin Peaks National Park which allows the viewer to see the cityscape along with some 56,985 residences vulnerable to wildfires.

This area is no stranger to destructive blazes and has a few of them etched into its history.

Between December 1849 and June 1851, it endured a total of seven severe fires. The most memorable of the sequence happened on May 3, 1851, and was suspected to be the result of arson. It was fueled by winds and grew so large that it was visible from the sea.

The fire scorched an area three-quarters of a mile long and a third of a mile wide in the city’s central business district.

As vast as this sounds, it was not the worst in San Francisco’s history. The “Great San Francisco Fire” of 1906 was more destructive by far.

This event was preceded by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake and continued for four days before it was doused by the rain.

When the costs were counted, 28,000 buildings over four square miles had been transformed to blackened skeletons, and the damages summed to $350 million.

If the same thing were to happen today, the cost of reconstruction could be as high as $40.2 billion.

4.) Sacramento, California

Sacramento, California
Image Credit: City of Sacramento

Another Californian region that is decidedly open to the wiles of uncontrolled runaway blazes is Sacramento–and the fact that it is the capital of The Golden State does it no favors.

Also known as the City of Trees it gets its moniker from its teeming urban forest. 

As a testimony to Sacramento’s lush green surroundings, The World Economic Forum has listed it at nine on its Green View Index of cities with the most trees globally.

The downside of this is the fire risks associated with the city’s proximity to nature which exposes 91,475 residences to risk, and by extension, a reconstruction value of $53.2 billion.

3.) San Diego, California

San Diego, California
Image Credit: Facebook/Marta Stasik Fahme

Yes, this is the seventh Californian city to appear on this list. 

Like the rest of the state’s fire-susceptible cities, San Diego’s vulnerability lies in the region’s soaring temperatures (thanks to climate change), dry vegetation brought on by rapid growth during rains–and death when there’s drought, dry air, wind, and human error.

The fires of 2007 speak to the city’s vulnerability. According to a publication by Sandiego.gov, more than 197,990 acres were scorched by numerous blazes in that year, 9,250 of which were within the confines of the city.

Core Logic dictates that currently, there are 123,060 residences at risk, with a reconstruction cost value of $75.6 billion.

2.) Riverside, California

Riverside, California
Image Credit: Facebook/Michael Huseth

Named for its proximity to the Santa Ana River, it has a thriving citrus industry. It is home to 95 endemic tree species and is set against a colorful environmental backdrop.

In proximity lies the Hidden Valley, Louis Robidoux, and Ameal Moore nature centers, which teem with different types of plant and tree life.

Riverside County is home to 2,510,643 people and 166,372 of their residences are vulnerable to wildfires. The cost of such a travesty could reach as high as $86.6 billion.

1.) Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, California
Image Credit: Pexels/ Daniel Semenov

Being home to the center of the American television industry, Los Angeles needs no introduction. 

Perhaps, taking the position of a sideshow to the movie magic and star-studded inner city sights is the Angeles National Forest.

This conservation area, which covers more than 650,000 acres of land, serves a purpose other than providing a getaway for Angelenos looking to escape the city; it manages water drainage within its boundaries and no significant fires have been attributed to the forest.

Be that as it may, the erratic winds in the area dry out the flora on hillsides and canyons and create areas of dense brush that are prone to catch fire. Driven by wind, the fires spread quickly and if not treated early, can become a threat to humanity.

Core Logic estimates that in Los Angeles, 185,763 residences are exposed to the risk of wildfires, and by extension, there is an eye-watering reconstruction cost value of $143.3 billion.

Wildfires in the US in 2022, 2023 and 2024

Wildfires in the US in 2021, 2022 and 2024
Image Credit: Pexels/RDNE Stock project

In 2023, the El Niño weather pattern ushered in a significant amount of moisture resulting in a 25-year wildfire low. During this year, 2,693,910 acres of land were scorched. 

The year before, (2022) was almost the polar opposite with the area of burned earth tripling and reaching a high of 7,577,183 acres.

Despite the fact 2024 is just over five months old, 1.75 million acres have burned with Texas – suffering its worst blaze in recorded history (1 million acres) – being the largest contributor to this figure.

Fire Sizes Have Tripled Over the Last 30 Years 

Graph of Wildfire Sizes Tripling
Image Credit: Core Logic/National Interagency Fire Center.

Core Logic claims that wildfire sizes and intensities have grown. Furthermore, statistics indicate that more than 80,000 blazes occured between 1995 and 1999 making it the period with the most fires over the last 30 years.

The lowest amount of fires experienced (60) in the US took place between 2020 and 2023. But while the individual incidents continue to drop, the sizes of these wildfires continue to soar. 

Source: Core Logic