Insurance Group: Colorado’s Black Forest Fire Likely to Top $100M

By Don Jergler | July 9, 2013

The official count on total insured losses from the Black Forest Fire in Colorado should be released soon, and the single most destructive wildfire in the state’s history is likely to exceed $100 million – marking two years in a row the area has experienced fires on such a massive scale, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

Insured loss estimates for the fire are in the works as adjusters continue hammering out the numbers for a fire that destroyed more than 500 homes, RMIIA officials said Tuesday.

The $100 million figure is far from being a stretch, and may be well on the conservative side, considering county assessors told the Denver Post newspaper on Tuesday that the fire caused more than $85 million in damage.  The fire killed two people and burned more than 14,000 acres, causing $85,444,052 in damage to homes, El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman told the Post.

However, when adding in damages to outbuildings, living expenses and other losses from the fire, the figure should far exceed that estimate, according to RMIIA Executive Director Carole Walker.

“It will likely reach upwards of $100 million in insured losses,” Walker said.  “It is our most destructive wildfire in state history with the number of homes.”

Walker said a preliminary snapshot is due soon, and possibly the numbers could be released around the time of next week’s one-year anniversary of the Waldo Canyon Fire, which was previously Colorado’s most devastating and costly wildfire.

Walker wouldn’t commit to a specific time frame for releasing the loss figures, saying there are several insurance companies collecting data and noting “it was a large scale fire.”

She did say insurance carriers have been able to commit more resources to dealing with the aftermath of the Black Forest fire, unlike last year when two major fires occurred in Colorado back-to-back along with a hail storm that wreaked more than $321 million in insured losses on the state.

“At least that’s our only large scale event that we have right now,” Walker said of the Black Forest fire. “What was unique and devastating about the Waldo Canyon fire was it was a city neighborhood. It was an urban fire. With the Black Forest fire you have a more rural area. I think you have a wider range of types of homes. Everything from single-family dwellings that are decades old to large horse properties.”

RMIIA recently updated insured damage estimates for both the Waldo Canyon and High Park Fires. The back-to-back fires combined for a total of $567.4 million in losses from 7,941 homeowner and auto claims. The previous combined insured losses were estimated at $449.7 million.

The Waldo Canyon fire accounted for 6,648 claims adding up to $453.7 million, and the High Park Fire insured loss estimate is now $113.7 million from 1,293 homeowner and auto claims, according to RMIIA.

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