Catastrophe modeling firm KCC estimates the insured loss from the recent Colorado wildfire could be $1 billion.

With nearly 1,000 structures destroyed, KCC said the Marshall Fire is the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. The record previously belonged to the East Troublesome Fire of October 2020, which destroyed over 500 structures and cost nearly $500 million in insured losses.

The late-season wildfire started off State Highway 93 and Marshall Road in unincorporated Boulder County, Colo., on Dec. 30. It was contained the next day after the area received approximately 10 inches of snow—but not before burning approximately 6,000 acres.

According to an ALERT from AIR Worldwide, which cites local officials, there are 1,725 homes within the burn area, with a total value of $825 million.

AIR said the Marshall Fire’s level of destruction is partially due to its location in the wildland-urban interface (WUI)—the region where natural vegetation meets urban expansion. The risk modeling firm said the Colorado State Forest Service in 2018 reported data indicating that nearly half of the state’s population now lives in areas at risk from wildfires—an increase of almost a 50 percent in only five years.

(See related story: Colorado Wildfire Analysis: Impacts of Climate Change, New Construction)

The lesson learned throughout this event is that the “wildland-urban interface is way bigger than we thought it was,” said Jennifer Balch, a fire scientist with the University of Colorado, Boulder. “There were stretches between Denver and Fort Collins that had no development, but now it’s just like one long, continuous development track. And those homes are built with materials that are very flammable—wood siding, asphalt roofing.”

“We need to completely rethink how we’re building homes,” she added.

Source: KCC, AIR Worldwide