Revisiting: The Effect of Wildfires on California Homebuilding

CIRB’s data from before and after the devastating 2018 Camp Fire gives a rare glimpse of the direct effect of wildfires on homebuilding.


Analyzing the effect of California’s wildfires on homebuilding has historically been difficult, as wildfires typically do not enclose themselves to one municipality alone. The 2018 Camp Fire, however, is a unique exception in that it mainly affected the town of Paradise. Because of this, CIRB’s residential permit data of Paradise from the years before and after the fire allows for an exclusive analysis of the relationship between wildfires and homebuilding.

The total number of residential building permits issued in Paradise has seen staggering increases following the devastating 2018 Camp Fire.

The Camp Fire destroyed around 11,000 homes in Paradise, displacing tens of thousands of people. In the wake of the aftermath, the town saw exponential growth in the number of residential building permits approved as homebuilders rushed to rebuild. CIRB’s data reports that the issued number of permits skyrocketed from 2018 to 2019 by 306%, and from there another surge of about 80% as of July of this year.

The surge in approved building permits caused Paradise’s permit valuations to jump by tens of millions of dollars as well. Before the 2018 fire, permit valuations consistently stayed in the $6.5-9.5 million range annually. In 2019, however, total permit valuations reached nearly $78 million, and in the first seven months of 2020 alone it has greatly surpassed that with over $177 million.

The analysis of this data shows that despite Paradise remaining at risk for fires, building efforts in the town continue to progress. CIRB will continue to track this all important data relating wildfires to their impact on homebuilding, with new permit data to come to further evaluate this relationship in other California cities in the wake of 2020’s historically ruinous wildfires.

Download the full spreadsheets here: https://bit.ly/3dm7msO

Marissa Saldivar // CIRB Journalism Intern // msaldivar@mychf.org