Watch CBS News

New website shows homeowners their fire danger risk

New website shows homeowners their fire danger risk
New website shows homeowners their fire danger risk 03:08

CLAYTON (KPIX) -- The Bay Area has seen more than its share of destructive wildfires and a new website is offering people a chance to view the fire danger down to individual homes. Some think it may be painting with too broad a brush.

On Monday, a new online database went live. It's called Fire Factor and it pulls together data from all kinds of sources so people can assess the wildfire danger where they live.

Matthew Eby, founder of the First Street Foundation which created Fire Factor said the data is individualized for each person's house.

"They're seeing an actual snapshot of their home," he said. "We are taking satellite imagery and looking from space down to then look at the defensible space around a structure."

He said it also includes forest service data about types and size of trees and considers any nearby wildfires in the past. It scans county records for the age and composition of homes and roofs and it mashes that data up with climate change models to give homeowners and home buyers a look at the fire risk now and 30 years in the future.

"What we're able to do is tell you, 'here is your risk today,'" Eby explained. "Here's how it will change over time because you, the homeowner, are the only one that cares about this structure for a long period of time."

The idea is to give house hunters an accurate picture of wildfire risk and current homeowners effective suggestions to minimize it. 

Clayton realtor Mike Williams has his doubts. The website lists Contra Costa as the county with the most buildings at risk in the Bay Area and, for Clayton situated at the base of Mount Diablo, the database says every single structure (all 4,130 of them) is at "severe risk" for wildfire.

"I want to go water my roof down now, go to my friends and water his roof down as well!" Williams said, laughing. "I think it's really unlikely but, you know, if it makes the client or consumer feel good, go ahead."

A "severe risk" designation could have consequences. Insurance companies could reconsider rates and coverage and potential home buyers could be scared off.

Peggy and Phil Morrill have lived in their Clayton home for nearly 50 years. They replaced the old wood-shingle roof with asphalt and the home only has one large pine tree with branches trimmed high. To them, the "high risk" label for their suburban neighborhood seems absurd.

"I feel it's unjust for Clayton because it really isn't that way," Peggy said. "I don't believe that's a true picture."

"I think we need to look at that -- I wouldn't believe it right now," Phil said. "I wouldn't feel comfortable believing that at the moment."

The "Fire Factor" operators say it's all meant to give the public more information. They say it's data that insurance companies already have and it's time consumers had access as well.

The "Fire Factor" database will soon be connected to Realtor.com as a service to those searching for houses. It is part of a larger website called "Risk Factor" which also includes flood danger. They can be viewed at http://riskfactor.com

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.