September 7th, 2011

Wildfires in Texas, United States

Posted at 9:17 AM ET

texas-widlfire-smallDozens of wildfires, fueled by hot temperatures and strong winds, have destroyed hundreds of properties and forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes in parts of Texas over the past week. The largest blaze, a 20 mile (32 kilometer) wide fire in Bastrop County, has spread across 33,000 acres of land, destroyed hundreds of homes and forced thousands residents to flee. According to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), Texas is experiencing its driest year on record. These dry conditions, assisted by strong winds from Tropical Storm Lee’s landfall in Louisiana on September 4, contributed to more than 180 wildfire outbreaks during the past week, Texas Governor Rick Perry said. He added that more than 100,000 acres of land had been scorched during this time while Texas emergency management chief Nim Kidd said more than 1,000 homes had been destroyed. According to the Insurance Council of Texas, the wildfires are expected to cause more than USD100 million in insured damage. AIR Worldwide has estimated an average replacement cost of USD187,000 for each home destroyed.

The Texas Forest Service said it has responded to 181 fires that have burned more than 118,400 acres of land over the last week. Reports said around 1,200 firefighters using helicopters, air tankers and engines have been deployed to battle the flames. The fires were initially traveling too fast to be tackled on the ground as wind gusts reached 30 mph (50 kmph). However, calming winds over the last couple of days have allowed firefighters to begin to contain the fires. The Bastrop County Fire is now 30 percent contained, according to fire officials. It is located around 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of the state capital Austin and officials say it is the most devastating wildfire in state history. The blaze has destroyed more than 600 homes and forced 5,000 people to flee, according to officials. Reports indicate the fire has killed two people, in addition to two people who died in east Texas on September 4.

texas-widlfire-big

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or GC Analytics (SM) representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

At least eleven other fires exceeded 1,000 acres across Texas on September 6, including an 8,000 acre blaze that destroyed at least six homes in Caldwell County. More than 100 homes were destroyed in Travis County by the Pedernales Bend Fire and the Steiner Ranch Fire, officials said. In Cass County, meanwhile, the 7,000 acre Bear Creek Fire burned in heavy timberland while the 3,000 acre Riley Road Fire destroyed at least 20 homes and threatened 250 more in Grimes County, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) northwest of Houston. Officials said the threat posed another fire near Houston, called the Magnolia Fire, appeared to be lessening for the most populated areas. Many residents were also being allowed back into their homes in nearby Montgomery County after around 4,000 homes were evacuated.

Texas has been plagued by wildfires since the end of last year, the result of a continuing drought that has caused more than USD5 billion in damage to the state’s agricultural industry. Since December 2010, approximately 3.6 million acres of land in Texas have been claimed by wildfires, an area about the size of the state of Connecticut. Reports said fire crews in Texas have fought more than 18,700 wildfires since the beginning of 2011 and the Insurance Council of Texas said that this year’s fire losses are the worst on record for Texas. Today (September) marks the 296th consecutive day of wildfires in Texas, according to Inciweb.

Please see the list below for details on the significant fires that are currently burning in Texas:

Bastrop County Complex Fire (Bastrop County)

  • Burned 30,000 acres
  • Destroyed around 600 homes
  • 30 percent contained

Pedernales Bend Fire (Travis County)

  • Burned 6,500 acres
  • Destroyed 67 homes
  • 40 percent contained

Riley Road Fire (Grimes County)

  • Burned 3,000 acres
  • Destroyed at least 20 homes
  • 95 percent contained

Bear Creek Fire (Cass County)

  • Burned 7,000 acres
  • A gas facility threatened
  • No containment

Steiner Ranch (Travis County)

  • Burned 125 acres
  • Destroyed 35 homes
  • 40 percent contained

Sources: BBC News, CNN News, Associated Press, Texas Forest Service, Associated Press, Agence France Presse, Reuters News, Global Fire Information Management System (GFIMS)

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Guy Carpenter publishes CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

Guy Carpenter compiles RISK-i reports for major technological or man-made events worldwide. These reports cover risks to property, transport and life including explosions, fires, crashes, engineering disasters and terrorist attacks that are likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email RISK.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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