A catastrophe modeler released figures on Wednesday showing how costly ongoing California blazes could potentially be as blustery winds make for increasingly dangerous fire risk up and down the state.
Damages from the fires burning across California stand at $25.4 billion at last count. And the fires are far from done.
The Kincade Fire in Northern California, the largest of the state’s ongoing blazes, has burned 76,825 acres and is 30% contained. The fire has so far claimed 206 structures and damaged another 40, according to the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection.
The fire has also caused numerous outages as Pacific Gas & Electric cuts power to reduce fire risk.
Mass power shutoffs by PG&E Corp. over the weekend left more than 2.7 million Californians in the dark, making it the state’s largest ever deliberate blackout, as the bankrupt utility attempted to keep its equipment from igniting wildfires during the strongest windstorm in years.
The Getty Fire in Southern California is one of the most recent blazes to erupt.
The fire has consumed 745 acres and is 27 percent contained. The fire has so far claimed 12 structures, and with five reported damaged. The Los Angeles Fire Department, which is handling the incident, reports 7,091 residences are in the mandatory evacuation zone and are considered threatened.
Reports are the fire was deemed an accidental start, caused by a tree branch that broke off and landed on nearby powerlines during high wind conditions. This errant tree branch caused the sparking and arcing of the powerlines, igniting nearby brush.
The Tick Fire in northern Los Angeles County has burned 4,615 acres and is 94% contained. Twenty-two structures have been reported destroyed, with dozens more reported damaged.
Things could get worse, according to a new report by Irvine, Calif.-based modeler CoreLogic.
There are roughly 1,470 structures within the perimeter of the fires representing a total reconstruction value $550 million, CoreLogic reported.
The CoreLogic breakdown for the three fires is as follows:
- Based on the current perimeter of the Kincade Fire, there are 589 structures with an estimated reconstruction cost value of $127.5 million at risk of wildfire damage.
- Based on the current perimeter of The Getty Fire, there are 220 structures with an estimated reconstruction cost of $174.7 million at risk of wildfire damage.
- Based on the current perimeter the Tick Fire, there are 660 structures with an estimated reconstruction cost of $248 million at risk of wildfire damage.
Tom Jeffrey, a senior hazard scientist with CoreLogic, said the state is now at the height of the traditional wildfire season, with blustery winds making fire threats worse.
“The last two years, every successive year seems like it’s worse than the others,” Jeffrey said. “I don’t know that it’s going to be worse than the las two years, but it has the potential to be.”
To date 5,061 fires have burned 74,385 acres, according to the CalFire.
This year has seen mostly smaller fires by comparison so far.
From Jan. 1, 2018, to Oct. 27, 2018, some 5,248 fires had burned 632,051 acres, nearly twice the five-year average for acreage, according to CalFire.
Dry weather, warm temperatures and low humidity have primed fuel to burn in forested areas, but over the last few years it has been the winds that have made things worse, according to Jeffery.
In the last few years, reported wind gusts of 60, 80, and even 90 mph have sent burning embers flying for miles.
During this time of year, high winds are normal throughout the state, but the winds typically are aren’t as long and sustained as they have been the past few years, and gusts are usually a bit tamer, according to Jeffery.
“We always have Diablo and Santa Anna winds in California every year, but to have them be such extreme wind events, that is not common,” he said. “It’s making hot fires, really intense fires.”
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