Extremely cold, wintry weather continues to impact the Central and Southern US with another storm on the horizon. As a result, at the peak over four million homes were without power and heat, mostly in Texas.
2020 was a challenging year with many unprecedented events. The 2020 wildfire season wasn’t an exception with record setting fires across the country. NIFC reported that as of December 23rd, 2020 there had been 57,480 wildfires that have burned 10,357,138 acres. This is almost 4 million more acres burned than the 10-year average and more than double the acreage burned in the 2019 season.
|2020 (1/1/20-12/23/20)||Fires: 57,480||Acres: 10,357,138|
|2019 (1/1/19-12/23/19)||Fires: 49,492||Acres: 4,576,827|
|2018 (1/1/18-12/23/18)||Fires: 55,911||Acres: 8,582,609|
|2017 (1/1/17-12/23/17)||Fires: 65,127||Acres: 9,563,128|
|2016 (1/1/16-12/23/16)||Fires: 62,946||Acres: 5,437,875|
|2015 (1/1/15-12/23/15)||Fires: 60,984||Acres: 9,937,863|
|2014 (1/1/14-12/23/14)||Fires: 63,252||Acres: 3,585,569|
|2013 (1/1/13-12/23/13)||Fires: 46,373||Acres: 4,306,944|
|2012 (1/1/12-12/23/12)||Fires: 67,326||Acres: 9,208,193|
|2011 (1/1/11-12/23/11)||Fires: 72,508||Acres: 8,642,298|
|2010 (1/1/10-12/23/10)||Fires: 68,598||Acres: 3,379,874|
|10-year average Year-to-Date|
|2010-2019||Fires: 61,203||Acres: 6,712,681|
Source: National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC)
California First to Raise the Alarm
On March 22, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to critical fire weather conditions brought by dry conditions, near record heat, and a mass die-off of trees throughout the state.
Wildfires in California burned a record setting 4.2 million acres with 5 of the states top 20 largest wildfires and 6 of the states most destructive fires occurring this year. The staggering number of acres burned are the most in a single year since CalFire began keeping records, and more than the last three years combined. These wildfires damaged or destroyed approximately 10,500 structures and killed 31 people.
All but one of these record setting fires occurred during the “August Lighting Siege.” Over the course of 72 hours, more than 650 wildfires ignited across Northern California. Of these fires, the lightning caused August Complex became the first “giga fire”, burning over a million acres and shattering the previous record by nearly double the amount of acres burned.
Other States Suffered a Similar Fate
Other states experienced similar wildfire intensity. Almost 700,000 acres burned in Colorado during 2020, including the three largest fires in state history.
The Cameron Peak Fire started on August 13 in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests west of Fort Collins. It became the largest in Colorado’s history after quadrupling in size over Labor Day weekend and making another aggressive run on Oct. 14, burning over 20,000 acres in one day. Before the fire was finally contained it had burned over 208,913 acres.
The East Troublesome Fire, the second-largest blaze in Colorado’s history, moved through some areas at as much as 6,000 acres per hour. The fire eventually consumed 193,812 acres and became the first fire to cross the continental divide.
In Oregon wildfires burned approximately 1 million acres of land, almost double the 10-year average of 557,000 acres. More concerning than the number of acres burned, the second most in state history, was the unprecedented destruction. Only 2 homes were lost to wildfires in Oregon in 2019. In fact over the course of the last 4 wildfire seasons Oregon only lost a combined total of 93 homes. The amount of homes lost in 2020 totaled more than the next 5 most destructive seasons combined, with 4,009 homes lost!
Not to be outdone by its southern neighbor, Washington saw more acres burn in one day than it did in the entirety of the past 12 wildfire seasons. Some 80 fires ignited and burned through nearly 300,000 acres over Labor Day. This includes the Pearl Hill and Cold Springs fires which combined to burn over 410,000 acres and become the largest in the state’s history.
More of the Same in 2021
The last month of 2020 was a precursor of what is to come with several days of Red Flag Warnings for California. As 2021 nears, forecasters predict another year of large fires due to continuous climate change, persistent drought, and La Niña in regions prone to parched vegetation and climbing temperatures. It seems impossible to imagine that we could see records shattered like 2020 but if the past few years have proven, unprecedented wildfire seasons are the new normal.
Catastrophe struck Central America as two back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes came ashore this past month. Eta and Iota made landfall in the region on November 3rd and November 17th, with impacts stretching from Colombia to Mexico. RedZone previously covered the forecast of the storms, showing the center of the storms hitting Nicaragua. However, damage hit Honduras hardest.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and lasted until November 30. Atlantic hurricanes cover areas over the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Although hurricane season has come to an end, it is still possible for tropical storms to form over these regions.
Hurricane Iota tumbled into Central America late last night, where countries are still recovering from Hurricane Eta. The storm made landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane, near the town of Haulover, Nicaragua. This is just a mere 15 miles from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua where slightly less powerful Eta made landfall on November 3rd. However, Hurricane Iota impacts will likely be much stronger. The storm’s maximum winds were just 2 mph shy of Category 5 at 155 mph at landfall.
Tropical Storm Bertha
Just a couple weeks following Tropical Storm Arthur forming off the Atlantic coast, another storm system formed off the coast of South Carolina. Prior to formation, the storm caused flooding in Florida after dumping almost 15 inches of rain over Miami. Read more
Here at RedZone we take pride in how our technology empowers stakeholders to make informed decisions about wildfire risk. Especially since 2017. Other models often don’t provide an accurate wildfire risk assessment. As a result, Underwriters and Catastrophe Managers spend more time researching additional data. RZRisk delivers the exact resources and information underwriters need to efficiently and confidently assess wildfire hazard, saving them time and money. One of our favorite things to do is to take a step back and evaluate how our risk model performed after wildfires cause losses. RedZone did this recently with California’s most destructive fire ever, November 2018’s Camp Fire.
Starting in early April, wildfires have been burning near the exclusion zone of the Chernobyl nuclear accident site. Knowingly, farmers started the fires to burn dry grass to prep the soil for the upcoming farming season. Burning the dry grass is a tradition in this region, so some residents started the fires to pay the annual homage. For a short time, the fires were contained. Recently, they flared up and are burning again due to strong winds. About 1,300 firefighters are working to contain the fires burning in three main areas. At this point, the fires have burned about 8,600 acres. Several abandoned villages are complete losses. Unfortunately, the smoke pollution is largely impacting Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. The smoke consists of carbon emissions and aerosols. Residents of Kyiv are being advised to keep all windows closed.
Though Covid-19 dominates the news cycle these days, it is important to be aware of the other threats facing Americans as we move into Spring. Today we will be talking Tornadoes, which have already caused some deadly damage this year ahead of the peak season. As of this writing, 34 people have already lost their lives to tornadoes in the US. Read more
This week, RedZone Software is in attendance at the Cat Risk Management Conference in Orlando, FL. The conference is hosted every year by the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA). The event brings leading global experts together to meet and discuss catastrophe risk management. Representatives from all across the industry were present, including: reinsurers, modeling companies, researchers, regulators, and academics. As the conference subtitle for 2020 indicates, attendees are experiencing “Forward Looking Catastrophe Risk Management”! This is RedZone’s 3rd year in attendance featuring the RZRisk and RZExposure solutions we offer.