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According to FEMA data, Oregon stands as the 12th highest among U.S. states for natural disasters

PMG FILE PHOTO - Wildfires have been on the rise in recent decades, as have damages to populated areas resulting from them.People living in mountainous western states are considerably more likely to be affected by natural disasters than those living elsewhere.

That includes Oregon.

A team organized through QuoteWizard by LendingTree recently analyzed FEMA statistics recorded over the past several decades to determine what states have experienced the highest rate of natural disasters. That data revealed that Oregon has seen its rate of natural disasters increase by 280% over the past four decades, ranking it as having the 12th highest rate in the nation.

Colorado had the highest rate, followed by Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming.

The study's results were released this week with the backdrop of Australia experiencing the worst wildfire disaster in the southern-hemisphere nation's history.

QuoteWizard spokesman Nathan Barber noted some of the study's key findings:

•From 1980-1999, Oregon had a total of 10 natural disasters;

•From 2000-2017, it had 38 natural disasters;

•The states that saw the largest increase in natural disasters are western states caused by wildfires;

•Nationwide, there was $485 billion in estimated property loss from 2000 -2017;

•Nationally, years 1980-1999 had a total of 751 natural disasters. 2000-2017 had 1997 disasters, a 62% average national increase.

"Oregon, like many of the western United States, has seen a significant increase in natural disasters, and wildfires are the common reason," said Adam Johnson, an analyst at QuoteWizard. "Between climate change and human related causes, wildfire are becoming more frequent and damaging since 2000."

The analysis indicates that wildfires in the western U.S. have become more frequent and larger – and cause more deaths. California's five largest fires on record have occurred since 2010, including the Mendocino Complex fire in 2018 burned over 459,000 acres – by far the largest fire in state history.

The Camp Fire in 2018 was the state's deadliest fire on record, accounting for 85 deaths.

In December of 2018, researchers with the NASA-funded Rehabilitation Capability Convergence for Ecosystem Recovery released six trends the group discovered after analysing roughly 40,000 wildfires in the western U.S., dating back to 1950: there are more fires; those fires are larger; overall, a small percentage of the west has burned; the same areas keep burning; recent fires are burning more coniferous forests than other types of landscape; wildfires are going to have a big impact on our future.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published considerable data on the climate change and wildfire connection. In October NOAA contract meteorologist/climatologist Tom Di Liberto noted:

"In recent years, North America has experienced a number of extreme wildfire seasons and extraordinary wildfire events, driven in part by declines in the health of wildland ecosystems. These changes are due in part to climate change and also to increases in human-caused fire ignitions as more people move into the wildland-urban interface. These factors have contributed to increases in the exposure of populations to direct and indirect impacts of fire, especially smoke."

The QuoteWizard study cited many climate experts attributing, in part, the increase and severity of wildfires in the west to a three-degree Farenheit temperature increase in the since the 1980's.

The study surmised: "Weather patterns across the western United States are more commonly becoming long periods of wet winter weather, with long, hot and dry summers. Wet winters allow for foliage to grow in the forested regions. (That) foliage becomes fuel for wildfires in the summers when it dries out during extended hot periods. That paired with firefighting practices of containment over the last century leaves forested areas to become like kindling for fires."

The study also stressed that the largest wildfires tend to be sparked by human activity, which increases the liklihood of those fires occuring near populated areas.

"That's why we're seeing more human casualties and man made structures being affected by wildfires," Johnson noted. "All factors of climate change and human intervention are making wildfires become the most common natural disaster in the country."

While that development is clearly an issue within the insurance industry, it has also become a hot topic of priority in forest-related fields.

Last February Oregon State University announced that it is "ramping up" research to enhance predictability of wildfires, following the most expensive wildfire season in the state's history in 2018.

A university publication, Life at OSU, noted that an assistant mechanical engineering professor from the school's College of Engineering, David Blunk, was selected by the U.S. Department of Defense to team with the U.S. Forest Service to study the burning of live fuels. The $2.1 million study is funded through a four-year grant awarded through the DOD's Strategic Environmental Research Development Program.

"The DOD is interested in this because they have a lot of land, and it burns," Blunk said. "Live fuels are basically trees that are green and living. These trees are often what torches, but historically, dead fuels have primarily been studied."


States listed by % increase of natural disasters and total from 2000-2017; total from 1980-1999.

1 Colorado 1350 58 4

2 Nevada 733 50 6

3 New Mexico 663 61 8

4 Wyoming 600 21 3

5 Oklahoma 578 122 18

6 Montana 514 43 7

7 Arizona 450 44 8

8 Utah 360 23 5

9 California 325 153 36

10 Alaska 311 37 9

11 Kansas 300 40 10

12 Oregon 280 38 10

13 Texas 244 172 50

14 Hawaii 222 29 9

15 West Virginia 217 38 12

16 South Dakota 215 41 13

17 North Dakota 2.1 31 10

18 Nebraska 208 37 12

19 N. Hampshire 200 33 11

20 S. Carolina 200 21 7

21 Idaho 183 17 6

22 Missouri 179 39 14

23 Washington 165 61 23

24 Kentucky 144 39 16

25 Massachusetts 142 29 12

26 New Jersey 141 29 12

27 Maryland 138 19 8

28 Vermont 133 28 12

29 Virginia 125 36 16

30 Connecticut 122 20 9

31 Georgia 113 32 15

32 Iowa 100 32 16

33 Rhode Island 100 12 6

34 Ohio 92 25 13

35 Arkansas 88 32 17

36 New York 80 47 26

37 Tennessee 79 34 19

38 Maine 78 32 18

39 Minnesota 75 28 16

40 Delaware 71 12 7

41 Mississippi 62 34 21

42 Louisiana 59 35 22

43 Florida 53 66 43

44 Indiana 53 23 15

45 N. Carolina 42 27 19

46 Alabama 23 38 31

47 Pennsylvania 20 24 20

48 Wisconsin 18 20 17

49 Illinois 5 23 22

50 Michigan 0 12 12

-- QuoteWizard by Lending Tree

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