Taking Account of Colorado’s Wildfires

By | July 6, 2012

As adjusters and homeowners have increasing access to fire damaged areas at the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado just how large a figure will result from what are likely to go down as the state’s two most destructive wildfires is coming into perspective.

“Claims adjusters got into the Waldo Canyon area for the first time with homeowners,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. “From our perspective we’re able to start the recovery process. We’re really looking now that they’ve been able to get into Waldo Canyon.”

When the fires were burning, it was hard to give a solid estimate, Walker said, adding, “It’s been a moving target.” The Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs is 95 percent contained at 18,247 acres.

Walker said she expects sometime next week to be able to give a solid figure on insured losses for both the Waldo Canyon and High Park Fire, which destroyed 259 homes and is fully contained.

“We are looking at in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” she said, echoing previous estimates of insured losses from both fires combined.

She said both fires are certainly the most destructive, and likely the most costly, in Colorado’s history.

She added, that despite the magnitude of destruction, paying out for losses due to the fire is “certainly nothing that the insurance industry can’t respond to.”

“I think there’s this sense of Colorado’s on fire,” she said, referring to media reports and public perception of the fire-plagued state. “It’s certainly been the most destructive wildfire season, it’s still a catastrophe that the insurance industry is well prepared for and it has the claim reserves to help in the recovery of this.”

The Denver Post newspaper earlier this week published an estimate of $110 million in losses alone from the Waldo Canyon Fire based on assessor records to come up with the figure for the combined value of the 341 homes destroyed by the fire.

Walker called that “a good snapshot to talk about the types of homes” that were destroyed. “But from an insurance perspective,” she added, “we’re going to be looking at the cost to repair and build, insurance loss of all personal belongings, smoke damage, damage to vehicles.”

Until an official figure is released, 2010’s Fourmile Canyon Fire officially is the most costly in terms of insured losses. That fire resulted in $217 million in insured losses, with no other fires in the state’s history coming close.

There were 169 homes destroyed in the Fourmile Canyon Fire. It was considered the state’s most destructive until the High Park Fire.

“Unofficially we certainly expect the 2012 season to surpass the insured losses from 2010,” Walker said.

The loss figure from both fires is expected to be high. Smoke damages are being reported in homes from both fires, particularly the High Park Fire which burned long and hot, Walker added.

“Absolutely we expect a lot of smoke damage claims,” she said. “And we’re seeing them already. Certainly there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of smoke damage claims.”

Topics Catastrophe Natural Disasters Wildfire Colorado

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