California wildfire activity continues, but Kincade better contained

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Updated Fri Nov 1st, 9:00am GMT to reflect latest property figures: California’s wildfires continued to burn overnight, with a number of new smaller blazes breaking out and now upwards of 400 structures destroyed, while firefighters made progress in containing the largest Kincade fire.

Wildfire industry lossesAs of Thursday evening local time, the Kincade wildfire in Sonoma County, California has burned its way to almost 78,000 acres in size, but firefighters have gained significantly more control with the Kincade fire now said 65% contained.

In terms of damage reported so far, the number of properties destroyed and damaged by the Kincade wildfire has risen even further.

349 structures have now been destroyed by the fire, of which 165 are residential and 10 commercial. While another 55 structures, 33 of which are residential, are reported damaged by the Kincade fire.

Along with other fires burning in California over the last week or so (Getty, Tick, Hillside etc), the total number of structures destroyed stands somewhere north of the 400 mark at the moment.

Those numbers are still well below where the insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) market has to worry about significant losses, being far below the figures burned in recent years when it reached well into the thousands.

But with extreme fire weather continuing and red flag warnings in effect, while still some 1,630 structures, 1,510 of which are homes, are said threatened just by the Kincade fire, there is still a risk of the number rising significantly. The number of structures threatened dropped considerably over Thursday night into Friday morning, as firefighters contained more of this wildfire.

The Getty wildfire in Los Angeles high-value hills area is now 52% contained at around 750 acres, having destroyed 10 properties, with 15 more damaged, but still with over 7,000 said threatened.

Here the Santa Ana winds are expected to be strong again, raising the prospects of further wildfire spread and fresh outbreaks, while in the north the Diablo winds have subsided somewhat, helping the Kincade fire in particular to be more contained.

As a reminder, Corelogic analysis estimated that the Tick fire which is now almost fully contained had 601 single family homes within the fire perimeter at a reconstruction cost value of $248 million, the Getty fire had 162 single family homes at an RCV of $137 million and the largest Kincade fire only had 221 single family homes at an RCV of $150 million.

That data was a little older and the Kincade fire had since spread, with the properties destroyed and damaged rising in line.

In addition, the Hillside fire in San Bernadino broke out overnight and has destroyed around 18 residential properties in the area. A smaller fire at only around 250 acres, it is still burning strongly and expected to be difficult to contain while the winds and weather remain conducive to its spread today.

In addition, there is the Easy fire that began burning on Wednesday near Simi Valley, north-west of Los Angeles which is causing concern today, again given the strong winds forecast for the area it is burning in.

The insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) markets will continue watching these fire weather developments closely, particularly those that have picked up additional property and liability premiums in the state after rates rose significantly following the high market losses from 2017 and 2018’s fires.

Strong Santa Ana winds in the southern California area are expected to be particularly challenging for fire fighters again today and there is a significant risk of new fire outbreaks as well.

After today the weather is expected to improve somewhat, with winds dropping. However the tinder dry conditions are forecast to continue for some more days, making fire outbreaks a possibility even without the extreme winds.

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