California Wildfire Claims Top $1B as Peak Season Begins: Report

October 8, 2015

A report forecasts claims from two California wildfires last month will exceed $1 billion.

Wildfires in 2015 have caused more damage and financial loss in the U.S. than in any other year since 2007, according to the report. Peak U.S. wildfire season in California started in late September and lasts through early November.

Impact Forecasting, Aon Benfield’s catastrophe model development team, issued its latest Global Catastrophe Recap report on Thursday. The report evaluates the impact of the natural disaster events during September.

The Valley Fire, which occurred northwest of San Francisco, was the third-most damaging wildfire in state history, killing four people and destroying 1,958 homes and other structures. Forecast economic losses from the fire exceeded $1.5 billion, with preliminarily insured losses estimated at more than $925 million, according to the report.

Charlie Liethen, right, embraces Sharon Dawson, who lost her home in a wildfire, in Middletown, Calif., on Monday. More than 2,000 homes had been confirmed destroyed, with the number likely to go higher as assessment continues. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Charlie Liethen, right, embraces Sharon Dawson, who lost her home in a wildfire, in Middletown, Calif., in September. More than 2,000 homes had been confirmed destroyed, with the number likely to go higher as assessment continues. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Butte Fire southeast of Sacramento and was the seventh-most damaging wildfire in state history, killing two people and causing total estimated economic losses of $450 million, with insured losses expected to be above 225 million, the report states.

“The severity of the September wildfires in California serves as a reminder of how costly the peril can be for the insurance industry,” said Adam Podlaha, head of Impact Forecasting.

Other September events detailed in the report include (figures are in U.S. dollars):

  • Officials in Indonesia declared 2015 as the worst year for wildfires since 1997, following a reported $4.0 billion in direct and secondary economic losses from fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan.
  • A magnitude-8.3 earthquake impacted central Chile on Sept. 16, triggering tsunami waves and killing 14 people. Over one million residents were evacuated as economic losses neared $1.0 billion.
  • Extensive flooding affected portions of Japan, killing eight people and damaging or destroying 20,000 homes. Three large insurers in Japan estimated payouts of at least $250 million U.S.
  • Typhoon Dujuan struck Taiwan and China, killing at least three people in Taiwan and injuring hundreds of others. Combined economic losses were listed at $680 million; insured losses were USD79 million.
  • Severe thunderstorms in Italy prompted economic losses of more than $2.2 million as widespread damages were reported to structures, vehicles, and crops.
  • Drought conditions intensified across western Canada, as annual insurance claims in Alberta alone were estimated at up to $675 million. Nationally, economic losses were estimated beyond $1.0 billion.

Aon Benfield is the global reinsurance intermediary and capital advisor of Aon plc.

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