RMS Says Insured Losses from 2020 Western U.S. Wildfires $7-$13B

December 15, 2020

RMS estimates insured losses from the record-breaking western U.S. wildfires this season will be between $7 and $13 billion.

These losses reflect estimates as of Dec. 1. The ignition of the highly damaging Glass Fire and additional spread of the CZU and LNU Complex Fires represent the most notable activity in California since September 20.

RMS insured losses represent estimates from major wildfires in California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado:

  • Northern California: $5 – $9 billion
  • Oregon and Washington $1 – $3 billion
  • Colorado: up to $1 billion

The RMS estimate includes losses from property damage, including evacuation and smoke damage, business interruption, and additional living expenses dacross residential, commercial, and industrial lines.

RMS expects smoke and evacuation to be significant contributors to losses for the wildfires this season, contributing roughly 20% of losses in California and Colorado and about 35% in Oregon and Washington. The estimate also accounts for notable post-event loss amplification from property damage (25 to 30%) and business interruption/ALE (up to 100% or greater).

“2020 represents the most destructive fire season on record, in terms of burn area in California,” Michael Young, vice president of product management, said in a statement.

“Since August, 69 major fires that exceeded 1,000 burned acres each, have burned so far. Five of the six largest ever California wildfires have occurred in 2020, with over 4.4 million acres burned in total to date. While fires earlier in the season were dominated by ignitions sparked by the intense lightning storm in August, extreme wind-driven fires dominated the last few months.”

He added: “A similar phenomenon resulted in record-breaking fires in Oregon as well this season, with over 20 major fires driven by extreme winds, burning more than 1.2 million acres so far. In October, Colorado experienced its three largest destructive fires with more than 24 major fires burning 850,000 acres in total.”

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