June 28th, 2012

Wildfires in Colorado, United States

Posted at 1:00 AM ET

colo-wild-smallDozens of wildfires, fueled by hot temperatures, strong winds, and low humidity have been affecting parts of Colorado in what has been described as the worst fire season in the history of the state. Of particular concern is the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has doubled in size from 6,200 acres to over 15,000 acres within the last 24 hours. The blaze has spread into the city limits of Colorado Springs, the second-most populated city of Colorado. More than 32,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes. Authorities have been unable to assess the amount of homes damaged from the blaze due to the intensity of the flames, but stated that structures and residences in the northwest corner of Colorado Springs are burning. Colorado Springs Fire Chief, Rich Brown, stated that the fire is one of epic proportions and that the blaze is “not even remotely close to being contained.” In northern Colorado, the High Park Fire has already consumed 257 homes and produced one fatality, however, the fire is reported as being nearly contained. A new wildfire near the city of Boulder is also causing concern. While there is no immediate danger to city residents, nearly 2,500 pre-evacuation notices have been sent to residences.

While fire crews are battling numerous blazes in Colorado, the most dangerous appears to be the Waldo Canyon Fire. The fire grew explosively on Tuesday due to high heat and wind gusts of about 65 mph (105 kmph), causing the fire to more than double in size since yesterday morning. The ferocity of the blaze stunned local fire crews, with incident commander Rich Harvey describing how at one point the fire managed to jump a half mile across a local reservoir. The blaze forced tens of thousands of residents to flee the area, including parts of the U.S. Air Force Academy just north of Colorado Springs. The community of Mountain Shadow, northwest of Colorado Springs, was reported as being enveloped in an orange glow Tuesday night. The American Red Cross has set up evacuation shelters to accommodate evacuees, and insurance companies have deployed catastrophe response teams to the evacuation facilities.

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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.

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the Waldo Canyon Fire, which is only 5 percent contained. Although the fire is being reported as less intense than yesterday, the increase in temperature throughout the day is expected to worsen conditions. A forecast of thunderstorms in the area threatens to provide further challenges for fire crews battling to contain the blaze. The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for portions of Colorado, including the Waldo Canyon Fire zone, as the potential for flash flooding exists for areas charred by the fire. Hot and dry weather is forecasted for the remainder of the week, providing favorable conditions for wildfires.

Nearly half of the nation’s wildland firefighting fleet is in Colorado, as the state is experiencing one of the worst wildfire outbreaks in its history. The High Park Fire, which is now nearly contained, is the second largest fire in acreage and the most destructive wildfire in terms of homes destroyed in Colorado’s history. The blaze, triggered by lightning, destroyed 87,250 acres and consumed 257 homes near Fort Collins, Colorado. Residents who fled the area should be able to return to their homes within the next 48 hours. Fire crews have been battling the blaze for two weeks, but as the fire appears to be mostly contained at 65 percent, any available resources are being sent to other parts of the state currently battling dangerous wildfires.

Lightning caused another wildfire to spark in an area west of the city of Boulder yesterday. The fire has consumed 228 acres and firefighters are currently battling the blaze to prevent it from entering the city. The fire, now within a mile and a half of the city, has prompted officials to provide more than 2,500 residents with pre-evacuation notices.

Guy Carpenter will continue to monitor the progress of the wildfires and will issue an update if any significant developments occur.

Sources: Reuters News, Associated Press, MSNBC, CNN, Denver Post, The Wall Street Journal

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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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