RMS Says Insured Losses from Western US Wildfires Could Hit $8 Billion

Wildfire viewed at night from distance burning in hills and valleys

September 25, 2020 |

Wildfire viewed at night from distance burning in hills and valleys

Catastrophe risk modeling firm RMS estimates that insured losses from wildfires in the western United States will be between $4.0 billion and $8.0 billion.

In a statement, RMS said the projected losses reflect estimates as of September 20, 2020, and indicated that the losses are likely to increase as many fires are still ongoing in California, Oregon, and Washington. As of now, RMS estimated that wildfire losses in northern California will range from $3.0 billion to $5.0 billion, while those in Oregon and Washington will range from $1.0 billion to $3.0 billion.

The catastrophe modeler noted that wildfires in the western United States have burned over 4 million acres so far and damaged or destroyed more than 13,500 structures.

"While this season is exceptionally noteworthy on many fronts, I want to highlight a silver lining: 30 to 60 percent of structures in many of these mega complex footprints actually survived the fire," Michael Young, vice president, product management at RMS, said in a statement. "This is because building science has identified many factors that increase the survivability of structures such as wildfire-resistant vents. We need to find bold ways to duplicate those measures at scale. If this is the new normal, we can't afford not to embrace effective steps towards mitigation."

RMS said its estimates include losses from property damage—including smoke damage and evacuations, business interruption, and additional living expenses. Smoke damage and evacuations have contributed significantly to losses resulting from the western US wildfires, RMS, said, which are responsible for about 20 percent of losses in northern California and 35 percent of losses in Oregon and Washington.

September 25, 2020