Insurers call Fourmile Fire most expensive in Colorado history
September 20, 2010
Insurance claims from the Fourmile Fire now total $217 million, making it the most expensive wildfire in Colorado history, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
The estimated insured losses from the Fourmile Fire are more than four times higher than 2002’s Hayman Fire, which resulted in $46.1 million in insured damage when adjusted for inflation in today’s dollars, according to Carole Walker, the association’s executive director.
Walker said insurance adjusters entered the Fourmile burn area last week where 169 structures – mostly homes – were destroyed. The $217 million figure is based on damaged and destroyed homes, additional living expenses as well as losses to personal belongings and vehicles, she said.
Walker said that the Fourmile Fire is now the 7th costliest disaster in Colorado history, the first six being due to wind and hail storms.
But she said the Fourmile Fire is more personally devastating than the hail storm losses, which damage cars and roofs but don’t destroy homes.
“The Fourmile Fire hit an area where people live full time,” Walker said. “It is an area of high-value homes that were completely destroyed with all the personal belongings gone.”
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Walker said the loss in Fourmile Canyon now surpasses the losses due to the Windsor tornado.
Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett said that a decision on whether criminal charges will be filed will not be made until mid-week at the earliest.
Garnett said he visited the Fourmile burn area Monday and is awaiting additional reports from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.
She said that Fourmile Canyon should be a wakeup call to Coloradans that wildfires are a very real threat that can have devastating consequences.
She said that because the Hayman Fire occurred more than eight years ago, it is easy for Coloradans who have permanent homes in the mountains and foothills to forget they need to protect their homes through mitigation efforts.
She also predicted, based on experiences in California and New Mexico, that Colorado is going to see more “mega-fires.”
“The Fourmile Canyon Fire is a reminder that the threat is very, very real,” said Walker.
She said that the silver lining in the Fourmile Fire is that most of those burned out had fire insurance and will be able to rebuild.
But she emphasized that this doesn’t detract from the devastation of those who lost not only their homes but almost all their personal belongings.
She said that in 2002, there were four major wildfires in Colorado -including the Hayman Fire – and the total loss was $70 million.
She also warned that those in the Fourmile Fire should be on the lookout for unscrupulous contractors who use inferior materials and perform shoddy work.
Walker said that there are many excellent contractors. But to make sure they get one, fire victims should make sure they get more than one estimate, get everything in writing, demand references and check them out, ask for proof that the contractor is bonded, carries liability insurance and covers his workers with compensation insurance.