October 17th, 2017

California Wildfires – October 8-17, 2017 - Update

Posted at 6:52 PM ET

calif-wildfires-10-8-17-smWildfire activity has rendered especially severe impacts to certain areas of California since October 8, including areas of Napa, Sonoma and Solano Counties. Wildfire activity has also rendered impacts to areas of Orange County east of the Los Angeles Metro area. Rates of extreme fire spread were enabled by especially dry conditions together with offshore gusty winds to burn a total of at least 217,566 acres since October 8. Media reports indicate at least 41 fatalities, making this the deadliest series of fires in California history. At least 5,700 structures have been destroyed and thousands more remain under threat. Containment efforts have made significant progress in the last week, thanks to efforts of at least 10,000 firefighters and reduced winds. Cooler conditions with an increase in moisture are expected this week with a chance for some precipitation over Northern California, according to the U.S. National Weather Service (NWS); this should support containment efforts. It will take some time to fully ascertain the full scope and severity of this event, and our first thoughts and concerns are with those lost and directly affected.

Northern California

For Northern California, media reports indicate at least 41 fatalities with 23 deaths in Sonoma County alone. At least 100 remain missing. At least 5,700 homes and businesses have been destroyed including thirteen wineries, with reports of 2,800 buildings destroyed in Sonoma County alone. Of at least 100,000 evacuated, about 60,000 have been allowed to return home, according to media reports.


Source: Wildfire Perimeters from GEOMAC (USGS)


Source: Wildfire Perimeters from GEOMAC (USGS)


Source: Wildfire Perimeters from GEOMAC (USGS)

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from GC AdvantagePoint®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. GC AdvantagePoint users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or cat modeling analyst for further information.

Impacts in the Santa Rosa area have been especially severe, where significant property losses include two hotels and a motel. Numerous homes in the Coffey Park area have also been destroyed. Several commercial businesses north of the Santa Rosa area have also been affected. Media reports indicate that the mayor of Santa Rosa stated that fire activity has destroyed at least 5 percent of housing in the community and rendered at least USD 1.2 billion in damage.

It is too early to fully determine the scope and severity of losses for this event as damage survey efforts continue. In the meantime, media reports indicate that RMS has estimated economic losses between USD 3 billion and USD 6 billion for Napa, Sonoma, Solano and Lake Counties, excluding auto, agricultural, smoke and loss amplification. A high insurance penetration rate is also noted by RMS for the area for fire, as well as significant uncertainty concerning long-term business interruption impacts from affected wineries. Meanwhile, reports from AIR-Worldwide note an average rebuild cost for affected single-family homes in the Tubbs Fire perimeter of around USD 450,000.

The fires were able to spread at an extreme rate due to hot, dry and very windy conditions on October 8 and 9. Persistent hot and dry conditions with intermittent winds allowed active fire behavior to continue during the week, with some fresh activity initiated on October 14 with gusty winds. Relaxed winds have since allowed firefighting efforts of more than 10,000 firefighters to advance containment, despite ongoing hot and dry conditions and difficult terrain. Cooler conditions with a chance of some light rain should affect these areas later this week, according to the NWS. A return to dry conditions is expected by the NWS for the weekend which will enable fire spread should any ignitions occur.

Status for certain impactful fires follows below, following statements from Cal Fire.

Central LNU Complex

  • Sonoma and Napa Counties
  • Total acreage: 102,785
  • Fatalities: 22
  • Structures destroyed: 4,078
  • Structures damaged: 238
  • Structures threatened: 27,794
  • Containment ranges from 27 percent to 82 percent
  • Expected full containment date: October 20
  • Includes the Tubbs, Pocket, Oakmount, Nuns, Adobe, Norbbom, Pressley and Partrick fires
  • Active fire activity continues, mainly to the north and east

Southern LNU Complex

  • Napa, Sonoma and Solano Counties
  • Total acreage: 51,064
  • Structures destroyed: 360
  • Structures damaged: 55
  • Structures threatened: 986
  • Containment: 77 percent
  • Expected full containment date: October 20
  • Includes the Atlas fire
  • Minimal fire behavior recently observed

Mendocino Lake Complex

  • Mendocino and Lake Counties
  • Total acreage: 38,007
  • Fatalities: 8
  • Structures destroyed: 681
  • Structures damaged: 52
  • Containment: 61 percent
  • Expected full containment date: November 1
  • Includes the Redwood and Sulphur fires
  • Minimal fire behavior recently observed

Wind Complex

  • Nevada, Yuba and Butte Counties
  • Total acreage: 17,037
  • Fatalities: 4
  • Structures destroyed: 398
  • Structures damaged: 16
  • Containment: 99 percent
  • Includes the Cascade, LaPorte, Lobo and McCourtney fires
  • Minimal fire behavior recently observed

Southern California

Further south in Orange County, near the Los Angeles Metro area, the Canyon 2 fire has burned at least 9,217 acres since October 9. At least 25 structures have been destroyed with another 55 damaged according to Cal Fire. Containment efforts were able to progress significantly over the weekend due to lighter winds, and the fire showed minimal behavior today. Many evacuated residents have been able to return home. The NWS is expecting a cool moist flow to develop with periods of gusty winds and perhaps some dry thunderstorms. Any lightning strikes could initiate new fires, and gusty winds may enable fire spread, although the cool and moist conditions should offset this threat. An offshore flow is expected by the NWS to develop over the weekend with a return to hot, dry and windy conditions (including possible Santa Ana conditions) that would enable fire spread.

Status for the Canyon 2 fire in Orange County follows below, following statements from Cal Fire.

Canyon 2 Fire

  • Orange County
  • Injuries: 4
  • Total acreage: 9,217
  • Structures destroyed: 25
  • Structures damaged: 55
  • Containment: 100 percent

Sources: Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service, National Weather Service, Associated Press, LA Times, AIR Worldwide, RMS, BBC News, The Weather Channel

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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.

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