Sept. 22--More than 82,000 Ventura County homes face high wildfire risks, a recent insurance industry analysis found.
The Insurance Information Network of California and Verisk Insurance Solutions-Underwriting released the review showing Ventura County fourth among California counties for having the highest number of homes in high-risk areas.
"I think the most surprising thing is that there are so many homes that are in this high-risk category," said Pete Moraga, spokesman for the Los Angeles-based network.
Statewide, the review found 2 million homes, or nearly 15 percent of the state's 13.7 million houses, facing high risk. More than half are in Southern California counties.
Risk was determined by factors such as proximity to brush, trees and grass, slope of the land and road access for fire crews.
The study found high-risk areas were not solely in rural or mountain areas but also in suburban neighborhoods, Moraga said.
In Ventura County, where hillsides and open space abut most cities, about 30 percent of the roughly 282,000 homes were in the high-risk category, the analysis said. A little more than half, or 55 percent, were categorized as low risk and the rest as moderate.
The numbers at high risk surprised Rosa Vanoni of Somis a little. But she lives on a ranch and knows fires are a threat, she said.
"We have to take precautions," she said.
The fire department comes out and checks that they have cleared brush from around their property line, she said. Her mother has a water tank and sprinklers at her nearby Somis ranch.
Christine Kwan of Camarillo lauded county firefighters' efforts to protect properties over the years and said the risk of fires doesn't make her want to live elsewhere.
"It's better than tornadoes," said her daughter, Michelle, a university student. People just have to take precautions, she said.
While the study cites the potential for homes being destroyed, the county has lost relatively few structures to wildfires in recent years.
The county last lost a significant number of structures to fire in 2006 during the Moorpark-area Shekell Fire, authorities said. The fire burned 13,600 acres, destroyed seven structures and damaged 11 others.
In 2003, Simi Valley and Piru fires burned 100,000-plus acres and destroyed several dozen homes.
Despite the risk from wildfires, Moraga said, insurance companies continue to insure California properties.
In 2003, 2007 and 2008, wildfires burned 1.3 million acres and destroyed thousands of homes in the state. Insurance companies paid out $5.4 billion for losses, according to the Insurance Information Network.
The risk from wildfires in Ventura County doesn't surprise local fire officials, who said they train firefighters to fight blazes that can threaten homes.
"That's one of the reasons we work so hard with things like our fire hazard reduction program," said county fire spokesman Bill Nash, referring to the long-standing brush clearance program.
"We work very hard to make sure we do not lose homes to wildfires here," he said.
(c)2012 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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