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Wildfire — An Insurance Assessment

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The 2019 CoreLogic Wildfire Risk Report says close to 776,000 homes are in serious risk of damage by wildfire. The value of those homes is $221 billion and the report breaks down the likelihood of damage to them by wildfire into three categories: extreme, high, moderate and low.

Most of the focus — however — is 13 Western states where most of the danger lies (in alphabetical order). Eight of those states are in the PIA Western Alliance and are in bold:

  Arizona

  California

  Colorado

  Idaho

  Montana

  New Mexico

  Nevada

  Oklahoma

  Oregon

  Texas

  Utah

  Washington

  Wyoming

CoreLogic said 8.7 million acres burned in 2018. Here are the top three states and all three are PIA Western Alliance states:

  Califorina — 1.83 million acres

  Nevada — 1.0 million acres

  Oregon — 898,262 acres.

Tom Jeffrey is a senior hazard specialist for CoreLogic. He notes that 924,623 residences are in the high risk category and the reconstruction cost of those residences will hit at least $318 billion.

In 2017-2018 insured losses in the Golden State hit $33 billion so Jeffrey said the biggest worry — these days — is California. “When you look at new homes, you know they’re likely to be built in the high-risk area or close to it,” Jeffrey said. “New homes in these very densely populated areas in Colorado and California, they’re having to push out into those more dangerous high-risk areas.”

And then he pointed to the three highest risk areas in the state. They are Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego. Jeffery said 42% of the residences in those three areas are in the high to extreme wildfire risk categories.

Other metro areas with very high risk:

  Sacramento — $27.5 billion

  Austin, Texas — $16.35 billion

  Denver, Colorado — $15.32 billion

No surprise, when it comes to reconstruction costs and the number of residencies in the high to extreme risk category, California and Texas lead the way. High population numbers and the sheer size of the two states — along with terrain that has high concentrations of fuels close to high risk areas — account for that figure.

And while California, Texas and Colorado are being most closely watched, Jeffrey says other states need some attention as well.

“What we’ve seen in the last 10 years are wildfire records being set in Washington, in Oregon, in New Mexico,” he said. “We’re seeing a lot of fires in areas where it’s high-risk, but not top of mind, like Idaho and Montana. The message is, it’s not just California.”

As for the report, CoreLogic’s conclusion is also important.

“Wildfire is a unique peril because the level of damage is often binary — a home is either left untouched by the fire or a total loss occurs,” the report states. “A patchwork of devastation occurs as fires pass by some properties indiscriminately while surrounding homes are reduced to ash. Unlike flooding or hail, it can and often does result in a 100% loss of the structure. Post-event studies have shown that structural hardening increases a home’s resistance to fire, but all too often luck seems to play a part, too.”

The report also pointed out the number of acres burned on average from 2002 to 2018. Here are the top five states. Four of the five are PIA Western Alliance states. Only Texas is not:

  Alaska — an average of 1.62 million acres

  California — an average of 710,268

  Idaho — an average of 586,513

  Texas — 546,415 acreage average

  Oregon — 486,803 average acres burned

 

Source links: Forbes, Insurance Journal

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