Every year California releases its Damage Inspections (CALDINS) data from wildfires across the state. In 2020, the data surveyed 28,626 impacted structures denoting damage level in 6 categories, ranging from “No Damage” to “Destroyed”. RedZone compared its RZ Risk 3 model to the damage found – and the data did not surprise us! Read more
As we know, wildfires can strike at any moment throughout the year given the right conditions. It is critical to have a game plan before and while a wildfire impacts your community. Due to the ongoing pandemic, additional considerations are needed to ensure a complete game plan. Following local and health professional guidelines while understanding wildfire and COVID-19 in your community are great ways to prepare.
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.
With an unprecedented fire season, more people have seen or experienced the detrimental effects of wildfires. Smoke damage is frequently an overlooked consequence from these fires. Not only can smoke be damaging to homes, but it can also be harmful to wildlife and to one’s health. In August and September, extreme wildfire activity throughout the western states created an abundance of smoke that spread across the continental U.S. Unfortunately, the widespread smoke caused an increase in hazardous air quality across the country. RedZone decided to take a closer look at the effects of smoke on health and on local wildlife and pets. 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.
Although the 2019 wildfire season was less destructive than previous years, the 2019 fires and fires from previous years have had a large impact on real estate and insurance industries. Some homeowners in high-risk areas have seen loss of coverage, while others are experiencing extremely high insurance premiums. Potential homebuyers for homes in high-risk areas are being denied coverage or are backing out of purchases due to the high premiums. As wildfire frequency and intensity escalates in California, concern for the real estate market grows.
We’ve featured multiple stories and updates on the heartbreaking bushfire season unfolding in the Eastern and Southeastern Australia this winter. Among the many stories that have come out of the tragic circumstances has been the bushfires’ impact on the Koala population. RedZone decided to dive deeper into where the Koalas reside and take a look at how much of their habitat has been impacted the last few months. Unfortunately, the findings are largely concerning for the future of Koala’s across Australia.