At the time of writing, the recent Camp and Woolsey Fires in California have burned a combined total of 245,000 acres (93,000 hectares) — an area about the size of Dallas. These fires have destroyed more than 12,000 homes and businesses, and killed 80 civilians. Ordinarily these would be called extreme events. But these are not ordinary times. After back-to-back record breaking wildfire seasons, including the Wine Country fires (US$11 billion) and Southern California Fires (US$2.3 billion) in 2017, and the Carr Fire (~US$1.2 billion) and Mendocino Complex fires (~US$200 million) this year in July, California Governor Jerry Brown perfectly summed up the current situation in his state: “This is the new abnormal.”
As firefighters make continuing progress on containment of both fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is quickly assembling an inventory of each burned structure, to detail the extent of the damage. Based on this data, plus a simulated reconstruction of the event’s wind, moisture, fuel, and fire spread parameters, RMS estimates the insured damage at between US$7.5 billion and US$10 billion for the Camp Fire, and US$1.5 billion and US$3 billion for the Woolsey Fire. This estimate accounts for burn and smoke damage; structure, contents, business interruption (BI), and additional living expenses (ALE) payouts; damage to autos; and modest post loss amplification (PLA) that may result from surges in labor costs, ordinance and law endorsements, and related coverage extensions.
RMS has produced estimates for the insured loss arising from the Thomas Fire that affected the Southern California counties of Ventura and Santa Barbara in December 2017. The estimate will fall between US$1 billion and US$2.5 billion, and includes loss caused by burn or smoke damage to personal, commercial, and industrial lines of business, along with insured loss from business interruption and additional living expenses. It excludes loss to automobile and agriculture lines of business and all damage related to the recent mudslides that impacted the same area. This estimate was calculated using RMS high-resolution exposure data and comparisons against historical fire damage, loss, and claim data.
Michael Young, Head of Americas Climate Model Product Management, RMS
The story of Hurricane Maria, the thirteenth named storm of the 2017 North Atlantic hurricane season, really started with landfall over Dominica on Tuesday, September 19 — as a category 5 hurricane. It was then Puerto Rico’s turn. As Maria approached, the system did weaken slightly during an eyewall replacement cycle, and made landfall on Wednesday, September 20, near Yabucoa, as a category 4 hurricane. It was the most intense landfalling hurricane for the island since the 1928 San Felipe Segundo Hurricane, with RMS HWind reporting maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour).
Rajkiran Vojjala, vice president – Model Development, RMS
Last week, Hurricane Maria churned across Puerto Rico with the strongest winds to hit the island in over 80 years. Puerto Rico is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and life science companies, which operate around 80 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved manufacturing plants on the island. Therefore, the impact of Maria on the industrial line of business not only influences the overall losses experienced in the event, but critically has many ramifications for Puerto Rico’s long-term economic recovery.