Austin, Texas: 59,318; $ 8,115,362,404
Los Angeles: 45,252; $6,558,995,589
San Diego: 16,568; $2,723,793,090
Prescott, Ariz.: 14,619; $2,870,164,489
Boulder: 8,955; $1,797,584,353
Albuquerque, N.M.: 10,980; $1,276,511,498
Salt Lake City, Utah: 5,271; $727,293,240
Source: CoreLogic: 2013 Wildfire Hazard Risk Report
Boulder County and the immediate vicinity is home to 8,955 properties at high risk of being touched by wildfire, with a combined value of nearly $1.8 billion, according to a national study released Thursday.
"Boulder is an area that has a unique geographical location," said Thomas Jeffery, senior hazards scientist for CoreLogic, which released its 2013 Wildfire Hazard Risk Report on Thursday.
"You have a site where the city is kind of growing up against an area that is high risk. One of the things the report brings out is that you don't have to have a home located in a forest or sitting on top of high risk, in order for that home to be threatened by wildfire."
In compiling the numbers, CoreLogic considered not only the city of Boulder and its immediate neighbors, but also communities as far south as Golden and as far north as Lyons, which are considered part of the same Core Based Statistical Area.
Additionally, it counted not only properties where the terrain a house sits on is itself high risk, but also factored in risk stemming from adjacent property that is classified as high risk.
The danger can stem, Jeffery said, "from airborne embers, where the risk isn't really on the property and it really isn't right next to the property; but you can have these flying burning embers that migrate more than a quarter mile, land on a house and ignite that house."
CoreLogic's number for properties at risk is actually very close to those in Boulder County's Wildfire Management Zone 1, which is 8,876. That counts properties in the unincorporated areas west of a line drawn approximately along U.S. 36 north of the city, west of Broadway through central Boulder -- but not those in city limits -- and, west of Colo. 93 south of the city.
The dimensions of the county's Wildfire Zone 1 "hasn't changed in years," according to Jim Webster, the county's community wildfire protection planner. "As more homes are added into those zones, each new home built into mountain areas increases that number."
While any home built in what is termed the wildland urban interface is inherently at some degree of risk to wildfires, Webster points out that the Boulder County building code has required since 1990 the use of ignition-resistant construction, and, since 1993, a wildfire mitigation/defensible space plan.
The executive summary of the CoreLogic report notes that "drought conditions that reached unprecedented levels last year are still plaguing many of the western and plains states and are forecast to persist into late fall."
Boulder is one of seven Core Based Statistical Areas receiving special attention in the study -- along with: Los Angeles; San Diego; Austin, Texas; Salt Lake City, Utah; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Prescott, Ariz. But it does not make note of the fact that Boulder received 17 inches of rain in one week of September, dramatically lowering the immediate risk here of wildfire.
"At least in the short term, right now because of the saturation you probably have a relatively low risk," said Jeffery. "But long term, when you have more fuel growing, you have the potential for having more fuel available for that fire should it occur in the future.
Of the 13 western states highlighted in the study, Texas was the state with the highest number of properties carrying the highest "comprehensive" risk score -- that is, the level of wildfire risk that factors in proximity to other risk areas.
In Texas, the number of such properties was 678,544, outstripping even California, with 375,500. Colorado was third, with 200,443.
In 2012, 87.5 percent of the total acreage lost to wildfire in the contiguous United States occurred within the 13 western states included in the study area.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.