California’s Caldor wildfire behaviour said extreme, to drive rising losses

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The Caldor Fire in California’s Eldorado County exploded yesterday, with extreme wildfire behaviour seen to drive the fire’s burn area up by more than 360% to 30,000 acres, while a number of northern California towns saw structure loss that has yet to be counted.

Wildfire industry lossesThe Caldor Fire expanded significantly at a time when critically dangerous fire weather had been forecasted and these conditions are expected to continue today, Wednesday.

A number of wildfires in California have intensified as a result, but none as much as the Caldor blaze which engulfed the town of Grizzly Flats yesterday, a town of 1,200 residents, Tuesday, causing significant damage.

Estimates suggest the Caldor Fire expanded from 6,500 acres to more than 30,000 acres in just one day, as stronger winds drove the wildfire in a new direction and created extreme fire behaviour. The Caldor Fire is still 0% contained given its dangerous spread.

Red flag warnings for dangerous wildfire conditions continue over Tuesday night and into Wednesday, raising the prospects that the Caldor Fire will expand further, with a number of other small towns threatened.

At Grizzly Flats, reports suggest few properties have been left standing, although actual numbers of structures destroyed have not yet been reported given the ongoing dangerous situation with this fire. But more than 6,000 structures are considered threatened and the number destroyed in Grizzly Flats is expected to be high, given the damage reports emerging from the area.

The latest wildfire activity is going to drive costs higher for the insurance and reinsurance market, while at the same time the much larger Dixie wildfire has also continued to cause damage and destruction further north in California.

The Dixie Fire has now burned almost 630,000 acres and is 31% contained.

Now, more than 1,208 structures have been destroyed by the Dixie Fire, with another 81 damaged. This is a mix of residential property, commercial and farm buildings.

Of those destroyed, 645 are single residence homes, 8 multiple residence structures, 134 non-residential commercial properties, 8 mixed commercial/residential and 413 considered minor structures.

Still, over 16,000 structures are considered under threat from the Dixie Fire and this blaze continues to spread with the critical fire weather likely to expand its footprint further in the next day or two.

While the numbers of structures destroyed remain far from previous wildfire seasons, California’s 2021 wildfire activity is becoming very damaging and likely to drive impacts to insurance carriers and some reinsurance firms already.

People have compared the damage to Grizzly Flats from the Caldor Fire to the destruction seen in Paradise from 2018’s Camp wildfire.

Across the entire United States, almost 4 million acres are estimated to have been burned by wildfires this year already, with the west seeing significant fire activity.

2020’s wildfire season was estimated to have caused over $12 billion of insurance and reinsurance market losses, becoming the third most costly wildfire season on-record for the market after 2017’s estimated $15 billion to $17 billion and 2018’s estimated $18 billion to $20 billion estimates.

While economic losses from the current wildfire season in North America will be well into the billions, it’s not yet clear how high insurance and reinsurance market losses have risen, but it is likely well over $1 billion at this stage, if factoring in all the California activity, as well as wildfires further north on the west coast and into Canada.

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