The Camp and Woolsey wildfires in California will likely cause between $9 billion and $13 billion in insured losses, catastrophe modeler RMS concludes in a new estimate.
That breaks down to $7.5-$10 billion for the Camp fire and $1.5-$3 billion for the Woolsey fire. Property and auto damage, burn and smoke damage, business interruption, additional living expenses, and contents loss are all factored into the estimate, RMS said.
The Camp and Woolsey events were among 15 fires that broke out in early November 2018. The Camp and Woolsey fires have so far burned a combined total of 245,000 acres, destroyed more than 12,000 homes and businesses, and killed 80 people. The Camp Fire, named for the road of its point of origin, is the most destructive fire in California history, with more than 11,000 structures burned and currently 77 fatalities. Notably, this fire season represents the second consecutive year with more than $10 billion in insured wildfire loss.
While the fuel landscape between the two fires differs significantly, with heavy forestry characterizing the Camp Fire (Northern California) and shrubland in the Woolsey Fire (Southern California), both developed under dangerous conditions that favor quick fire spread: low moisture, abnormally high temperatures, dry vegetation and intense seasonal winds. Both traveled quickly through steep, hilly, vegetated terrain.
The town of Paradise, Calif., which suffered the worst losses of the Camp Fire, has narrowly avoided catastrophic wildfires many times over the past 20 years. Thirteen large fires since 1999 have burned inside the current footprint of the Camp Fire.
The Woolsey Fire, igniting in Ventura County and jumping Highway 101 before spreading to Malibu, resulted in over 250,000 evacuations and burned more than 1,450 high-value properties.
The area around the Woolsey Fire shares a similar, if less stark, history of frequent fires. Six large fires since 1999 intersect the Woolsey footprint. Going back to 1993, the Old Topanga Wildfire, which caused almost $1 billion in today’s dollars, occurred immediately next to where the Woolsey Fire is currently burning.