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As Crazy as It Sounds, More Californians Moving to Risky Fire Areas

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The Woolsey Fire, which broke out Nov. 8, 2018, damaged more than 1,600 structures and killed three people . (AP File)
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The number of U.S. households that moved into areas with a recent history of wildfire climbed 21% between March 2020 to February 2021, according to a Bloomberg CityLab analysis of change-of-address data.

One example: In a Southern California area where the Woolsey Fire destroyed 1,500 structures, killed three people, and forced the evacuation of more than 295,000 people in 2018, the demand for houses went into overdrive two years later, Realtor Dave McLaughlin told Bloomberg CityLab.

“Only a few clients in the last year or so have told me they don’t want to live here because the fire risk is too great,” McLaughlin said. “Covid erased people’s wildfire fears.”

In California, 12% of households live where there has been a wildfire since 2010. The share for Idaho is 38%; in Utah, it’s 19%. These states had the highest number of moves last year into tracts recently touched by fire.

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