As the Northwest prepares for an above-normal risk of wildfires this year, residents of Washington state are five times more likely to believe that they’ll be directly impacted by wildfires than they were four years ago, according to a study from PEMCO Insurance.
In 2015, just 5% of Washington residents thought it was extremely likely that a wildfire would directly affect them, according to PEMCO. Today, that number is 25%. Oregon residents, meanwhile, are three times more likely to believe that a wildfire will directly impact them.
This isn’t mere paranoia, according to PEMCO – a number of independent studies have found that wildfire risk is increasing over time.
“The Northwest is facing a new reality, and our poll confirms that people are increasingly concerned about the real threat of wildfire – whether it’s because they live in an area where wildfire can cause property damage or injury, or even simply because of the smoky haze that now descends on western areas of our region during wildfire season,” said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. “While there are some aspects of wildfire that are out of our control, by being cautious and planning ahead, we can work together to reduce the risk and impact of wildfires.”
PEMCO recommended that homeowners in at-risk areas create a “defensible space” around their property by keeping grass mown and watered, pruning back trees and clearing wood debris, and mulching with pumice or gravel rather than wood chips.
The insurer also recommended creating a family emergency plan and a disaster preparedness kit.
“Already we have seen Northwest neighbors coming together to fight the threat of wildfires,” Wing said. “As people become more aware of the risk, they aren’t walking away from the fight.”