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Wildfires Increase Flood Risks For Years

Blakely McHugh
Destruction in Phoenix, Oregon, following the Almeda Fire on September 8.

Homeowners living in areas that were hit by recent wildfires could now face a higher risk of flooding. Federal officials are recommending they consider purchasing flood insurance.

Wildfires destroy a large expanse of trees and plants that normally hold soil intact, so even mild rain could cause a mudslide.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say it could take up to five years for that vegetation to grow back. Meanwhile, just an inch of water from a flood could cause $25,000 worth of damage to a home.

Normally homeowners need to buy flood insurance if they want to get a mortgage in a FEMA-designated flood zone. But any property owner could get the extra coverage, which could protect them from other types of flooding, like a broken water main.

“If the damage is to your property and you have flood insurance, then you’re in a much better position,” says FEMA spokesman Nate Custer.

Most homeowners’ insurance plans don’t cover flood damage. The cost of flood insurance varies depending on where the property is located. Premiums are generally cheaper for properties that aren’t located in a high-risk flood zone.

There’s usually a 30-day waiting period before new flood insurance can take effect, although there are some exceptions.