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Kincade wildfire in California spreads to 16,000 acres, structures destroyed


Update: Our latest on the current wildfire outbreaks can be found here. The Kincade wildfire has been burning out of control in an area of California’s Sonoma county around 70 miles north of San Francisco and as of the latest update the fire had spread to more than 16,000 acres with tens of structures already destroyed.

california-wildfire-losses-insuranceCalifornia’s fire weather forecast is for dangerous conditions over this weekend, with tinder dry forests and brushland, while strong Diablo winds are forecast over the coming days.

The Kincade wildfire began in the Sonoma County wine country and has been driven south by powerful winds.

Wind gusts of up to 70 mph have been reported, with conditions expected to die down today, providing fire fighters a chance to gain greater control of the Kincade wildfire.

But then winds are expected to pick up again on Saturday and dangerous fire weather conditions ensue.

After the impactful California wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018, this 2019 season has also started off ominously with a number of burns exacerbated by dry conditions and strong winds.

The insurance, reinsurance and insurance-linked securities (ILS) markets will be watching 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 2018’s fires.

Residents are being evacuated in front of the fast moving fire, which is still only 5% under control according to fire authorities.

900 residents of the town of Geyserville, Sonoma County were evacuated, along with other small towns in the path of the fire, with an evacuation warning also issued for the town of Healdsburg. A number of vineyards were also evacuated.

The fire is thought to have ignited in a mountainous area near Kincade Road, with the cause unknown.

However, a recent report from utility Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) said that a fault occurred on one of its transmission towers close to where officials say the Kincade Fire started, near the town of Geyserville. This incident is still being investigated by the utility.

PG&E is already facing numerous issues, bankruptcy and enormous claims from previous fires among them.

The utility is also shutting off power to residents of California when dangerous fire weather occurs, as an attempt to prevent any outbreaks sparked by its equipment. It’s expected that as many as a million California residents may be without power again this weekend, in order to prevent further utility infrastructure caused wildfires.

So far, the Kincade Wildfire is said to have destroyed 50 structures, a mix of residential and farm or commercial buildings it seems.

This number is expected to rise once fire authorities can assess the situation in daylight later on today.

Another widlfire is burning around 400 miles south of Kincade, as the Tick fire in Canyon Country expanded to more than 5,000 acres in northwestern Los Angeles County late on Thursday local time. This fire threatens as many as 10,000 structured, officials said, although it seems authorities are confident in gaining control today.

Insurance, reinsurance and ILS interests are eyeing California wildfire activity nervously, as no matter how much rates rose by at renewals this year they are unlikely to come close to covering loss costs should a repeat of recent years wildfire seasons occur in 2019.

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