Due to a number of factors over the last 15 or so years, American wildfires (specifically in the Pacific Northwest) have only increased in terms of frequency, as well as overall wildfire losses all over the country.
The recent abundance of wildfires is just one more reality renters have to keep in mind when looking for apartments these days: “Am I renting in an area that's susceptible to wildfires, and the smoke-filled air that comes along with them?"
Scan our list below to find out if you live in one of the top 10 states most likely to endure wildfires. And if you're considering moving to one of these states, consider some good renters insurance and heed the following warnings.
Idaho's forests make up a whopping 41 percent of the state so it's no surprise that the state makes our top 10. Here's another shocking number: 171,200 of Idaho's 721,820 dwellings are being constantly threatened by wildfires. That's 24 percent of every home in Idaho.
And don't forget to consider air quality when you're considering a rental in Idaho, which will cost you an average of $1,053 for a one-bedroom apartment. In 2016, for example, there were 48 days in which Idahoans were exposed to unhealthy levels of severe air pollution due to wildfire smoke.
Colorado is another one of those western states that's made up heavily of national forests and parks — more than 35 percent in this case. The state is also recovering from 2018, one of its worst wildfire seasons ever with 11 major fires.
You know what you're potentially getting yourself into if you rent in Colorado ($1,580 for a one-bedroom), though. Lots of sweltering days with bad air quality and fire alerts that can increase from mild to extreme in mere hours.
Utah is made up of a lot of real estate in the form of national forests. There's Manti-La Sal, Fishlake, Capitol Reef, Dixie, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Ashley — and that's just a partial list of forests with a history of wildfires. If you're concerned about the fire risk, avoid these areas if you can and rent as close as possible to Salt Lake City.
One more thing you'll have to consider in Utah is its air quality. Because of its humidity and the smoke from frequent summer wildfires, renters with sensitive lungs or eyes have to consider Utah's frequent red-day alerts. Utah had 45 severe red days during the summer of 2018 alone.
The average one-bedroom apartment in Utah is $1,135 a month.
If possible, be wary of any rental on the entire western side of Montana. The western side of the state is made up mostly of national forests (Flathead, Lolo, Kootenai, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Helena-Lewis and Clark), so these areas are on constant wildfire watch.
Your safest bet, if you rent in Montana for an average of $956 a month, is to find something in a major city away from the national forest. Look into Billings, Great Falls and maybe Bozeman.
It's no secret that 2018 was particularly brutal for Oklahoma in regards to wildfires. More than 300,000 acres of the state was scorched with a multitude of wildfires so out of control, the Oklahoma Forestry Service called the level of danger “historic."
We can't blame overgrown forests or national parks on Oklahoma's wildfires though. The biggest fire hazard Oklahoma has to deal with is the dried out prairies and strong spring winds.
So, if you're renting in Oklahoma (only $748 a month for a one-bedroom apartment), look for properties on the far east third of the state. The Oklahoma Forestry Services has been warning the public that the entire middle and left side of the state is bone dry and primed for the possibility of wildfires.
If you're renting in Washington, stay around the Seattle-Tacoma-Everett side of Elliot Bay, and try avoiding the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest area if you're concerned about wildfires.
At one point in August of 2018, Okanogan-Wenatchee claimed the majority of the state's 68 active wildfires. And if you're renting in Washington, you can expect to spend about $1,845 a month for a one-bedroom.
You don't think of Arizona as a state with a substantially large national forest considering its large patches of desert, but it has some of the most densely-wooded national parks in America. And unfortunately, these forests — Coconino, Tonto and Apache-Sitgreaves — play a big part in Arizona's annual rash of wildfire.
To avoid the fire risk, your best bet is to rent around Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson. The average one-bedroom in this state will cost $1,056 a month.
Oregon is a beautiful state with rent prices averaging $1,447 a month. But the thing that makes Oregon so beautiful — its 30 million acres of forests and national parks — is what makes it so susceptible to wildfires.
If possible, look for rentals in Portland and Eugene, two well-developed cities out of range of Oregon's major forests: Mt. Hood, Willamette, Umpqua and Winema. The only other variable you'll have to work out is Oregon's air quality during the wildfire season. It can be bad.
It's no surprise that California is near the top of this list, both for rent prices (averaging $2,303 a month) and wildfires. There was a time 30 or 40 years ago where it was common to refer to California as an earthquake state. Now, it seems like everyone associates California with wildfires.
So, how can a potential renter in California keep themselves out of the paths of wildfires? The first thing you'll want to do is avoid apartments in the coastal canyons. Sure, it's kinda cool to be living among the wildlife inside the hipster art colonies, but this is where wildfires tend to ignite first.
If you still decide to rent in an apartment in a neighborhood that's prone to wildfires, ask all potential landlords or property managers what exactly happens if their complex is destroyed in a fire. You can't have enough fire insurance in California, or any state on this list for that matter.
Triple-digit temperatures along with dry brush during the hotter months means Texas is constantly susceptible to wildfires. Is there an area of Texas that has the least amount of exposure to wildfires? Unfortunately, no.
If you're looking for something away from the paths of wildfires, look for rentals in the dense downtowns of Houston, San Antonio, Dallas or Austin. Statewide, rent will average $1,136 for a one-bedroom.
There's no doubt that wildfires can impact people in these common states, but they're also a risk in most places in America. Here's a detailed look at the number of wildfires each state had in 2018.
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Information about wildfires reported, acres burned and buildings at risk comes from the Insurance Information Institute. Data for damage from fires comes from the following sources:
The rent information included in this article is based on July 2019 multifamily rental property inventory on ApartmentGuide.com and Rent.com and is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
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