AIR Worldwide Updates Wildfire Model with Event-Based Risk Management Approach

August 17, 2018

Catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide (AIR) has released an updated Wildfire Model for the United States designed to provide a comprehensive view of the risk of wildfire to property within the 13 westernmost conterminous states. The event-based modeling approach accounts for the variability in weather in the current climate regime and its impact on fire behavior, enabling the model to simulate correlated countrywide wildfire activity.

The model features a catalog of fire clusters and a historical event set that features 17 events, including the 2017 Tubbs/Atlas and Thomas fires in California. Each cluster consists of fires ignited within 150 miles of one another over a period of seven days. AIR uses historical fire data to characterize fire behavior in different ecological regions of North America, known as ecoprovinces, and uses unique spread models based on recent scientific approaches to create stochastic fires for each of these regions.

“With residential and commercial development continuing to increase in areas prone to wildfire risk, the model explicitly accounts for this increased penetration into the WUI [wildland-urban interface],” said Tammy Viggato, senior scientist, AIR Worldwide. “Approximately one-third of the U.S. population currently lives in the WUI in the United States, where most wildfire-related losses occur, and this figure continues to grow rapidly. To address the increasing risk, the model realistically captures fire behavior as it moves from rural areas to the suburbs and, under extreme conditions, into more urban areas.”

This enhanced wildfire model probabilistically simulates how fires spread into areas based on wind speed and direction, availability of fuels, terrain, and likelihood of suppression. It explicitly accounts for the different ways fires spread, including fire branding and spotting.

The model calculates flame length at each time step, which is directly correlated with the intensity of the fire and thus is used to estimate the severity of its damage. Based on these criteria, in conjunction with constantly evolving wind conditions and suppression efforts, the model can determine how and where the fire may progress across the landscape.

The wildfire model also accounts for risk characteristics specific to wildfire-defensible space and NFPA’s Firewise USA communities.

The Wildfire Model for the United States is currently available in the Touchstone, Touchstone Re, and CATRADER catastrophe risk management systems.

AIR Worldwide provides risk modeling products for individuals, businesses, and society. In 1987, AIR Worldwide founded the catastrophe modeling industry and today models the risk from natural catastrophes, terrorism, pandemics, casualty catastrophes, and cyber incidents. Insurance, reinsurance, financial, corporate, and government clients rely on AIR’s advanced science, software, and consulting services for catastrophe risk management, insurance-linked securities, longevity modeling, site-specific engineering analyses, and agricultural risk management. AIR Worldwide, a Verisk business, is headquartered in Boston, with additional offices in North America, Europe, and Asia.

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