Homeowners Insurance

Wildfires Threaten Homes Valued at Nearly $1.3 Billion in Kansas’ Most At-Risk Areas

Wildfires Threaten Homes Valued at Nearly $1.3 Billion in Kansas’ Most At-Risk Areas

Data shows that more than half of the state's houses could be exposed to increased fire damage.
A home destroyed by wildfire.
A home destroyed by wildfire. Source: Getty Images

There are nearly 13,600 homes in the most at-risk fire areas in Kansas, and those homes are valued at nearly $1.3 billion combined, according to the latest analysis from ValuePenguin. These homes are spread across four counties that authorities have designated as "moderate" and "high" potential hazard zones.

Wildfires don't pose danger on the same scale in Kansas as they do in California or in other states on the Pacific coast or in the Southwest. However, Reno County — which is home to 62,000 Kansans — has a potential wildfire hazard risk greater than that of 97% of the country.

Additionally, while there are nearly 13,600 Kansas homes in these higher-risk fire zones, the government's data shows 57% of the state's housing units would be in danger of direct wildfire damage if a blaze occurred.

Key findings

Kansas homes valued at a combined $1.3 billion are most immediately threatened by wildfires

These homes are concentrated in only four counties, where the U.S. Forest Service deems the potential hazard presented by wildfires to be either moderate or high. Fortunately, nowhere in the state does the risk to homes exceed high.

Designation
Counties designated
Very high0
High1
Moderate3
Low16
Very low85
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In Kansas, the counties the Forest Service has designated with either moderate- or high-risk potential for dangerous wildfires are Reno, Comanche, Kiowa and Rice. Reno County is the only one of these four that carries a high-risk designation.

The value of homes exposed to wildfires in Reno County alone is more than $1 billion.

In total, there are nearly 13,600 homes at increased danger of wildfire damage, according to the Forest Service's data. Reno County accounts for the largest share of these homes, as there are more than 10,900 that are in direct or indirect danger of wildfire damage. The high volume of houses in the county, combined with the fact that Reno County is the only place in Kansas that carries a high fire risk designation, leads to a possible loss value of nearly $1.1 billion.

The other three counties — Comanche, Kiowa and Rice — have moderate-risk designations from the government. Despite the relatively low volume of houses in these areas, the potential costs are still high. Across these three counties, the total value of homes exposed to fire damage is $229,461,534.

County
Homes directly exposed to wildfire risk
Homes indirectly exposed to wildfire risk
Total value of homes directly exposed to wildfire
Total value of homes indirectly exposed to wildfire
Total value of homes directly or indirectly exposed to wildfire
Reno5,4875,462$533,557,825$531,132,562$1,064,690,387
Rice930305$69,491,608$22,779,407$92,271,014
Kiowa257456$31,274,007$55,396,206$86,670,212
Comanche224477$16,129,978$34,390,330$50,520,307
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Compared to the rest of the nation, Reno, Rice, Kiowa and Comanche counties have a higher risk of fire damage. Each of these counties falls in the 99th percentile for the conditional risk that fires pose to structures. This means that fires in 99% of the counties in the country have a smaller chance of resulting in serious consequences than fires in these four counties.

Kansas' most populated counties aren't at risk for wildfires, but that doesn't mean the potential cost of a fire is low

Sedgwick and Johnson counties carry a lower risk of wildfire damage, according to the Forest Service. Sedgwick County, which houses more than 513,000 people, was given a low-risk designation by the agency. Homes in Johnson County, where more than 591,000 people live, are even less likely to experience significant wildfire damage. Still, both counties have significant numbers of homes that could be directly impacted by fire because of wind currents, proximity to other burning homes and vegetation.

Across the state, there are more than 653,000 homes exposed to fire damage. That works out to be 57% of the housing units in all of Kansas.

In Sedgwick County, 26% of the houses in the area are exposed to potential fire damage. This represents a total value of more than $7.3 million. A larger proportion of the homes in Johnson County are vulnerable to fire damage — 41% — and the value of the most at-risk homes jumps to more than $24 million.

The cost of homeowners insurance in Kansas goes up slightly in the most at-risk areas in the state, but there's not a clear causal relationship

ValuePenguin discovered that while most of the counties with a high risk of damage from wildfires do have higher costs of insurance than average, it's not safe to say that a county's place in the Forest Service's data set determines the cost of coverage.

Indeed, the cost of homeowners insurance in Kiowa and Comanche counties was among the highest compared to the rest of Kansas. In the former, rates were 16% higher than average, while in the latter premiums were 14% more expensive. However, Comanche has a moderately higher fire risk rating than Kiowa. Reno — the county at the top of the Forest Service's index — has rates that are only 8% greater than average.

County
Average cost
Percentage difference from average
Kiowa$2,84116%
Comanche$2,80914%
Sedgwick$2,73211%
Reno$2,6548%
Rice$2,4901%
Johnson$2,005-18%
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Other factors are likely to work in concert with an area's proneness to damage from fires, hail, tornadoes or flooding to determine rates. Costs go up in areas where there are higher chances of recurrent damage, such as weather events or crime, or for policyholders who have made claims in the past. In this vein, we found that making one fire claim can raise rates by an average of 23% in Kansas.

County
Average cost
Cost after fire claim
Increase
Kiowa$2,841$3,45522%
Comanche$2,809$3,41622%
Sedgwick$2,732$3,34622%
Reno$2,654$3,25223%
Rice$2,490$3,03822%
Johnson$2,005$2,46923%

Changes reflect a fire claim for $150,000.

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Methodology

ValuePenguin's analysts gathered figures for the homes directly and indirectly exposed to wildfire damage — as well as information on the value of homes across Kansas — to estimate the potential value that could be lost in fires. Our researchers combined data from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Census Bureau. We used the American Community Survey to get home values per county, and we multiplied that number by the figure from the Forest Service for at-risk homes.

ValuePenguin's analysis used insurance rate data from Quadrant Information Services. These rates were publicly sourced from insurer filings and should be used for comparative purposes only, as your own quotes may be different.