More Coverage by Denver Post of Colorado Fires and One Policy Idea

An aerial photograph taken Wednesday of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs shows the destructive path of the fire. See additional aerial photographs at (John Wark,

In addition to photos that depict the Waldo Fire (not just dispersed homes way in the backwoods) (not dead lodgepole, live ponderosa), the Post had an interesting story about insurance here.

Insurers increasingly are requiring homeowners to mitigate risks, such as clearing brush away from homes, as a condition of insurance.

Historically, Colorado’s largest property insurance claims have come from hail and wind, not fires.

2009 and 2010 were especially heavy years for insurance claims. In 2009 — the most expensive claims year in Colorado history with three major hailstorms — property insurers paid out $1.69 in claims for every $1 they collected in premiums, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. The loss ratio in 2010 was $1.37 to $1.

In prior years, insurance companies collected more in premiums than they paid out in Colorado. And companies also have investment income from their reserves, even during years in which their payouts have been heavy.

But because of the big payout imbalances of 2009 and 2010, experts say homeowners should gird for future premium increases.

The amount of increases will vary from company to company and from the risk factors applicable to a particular home or region.

Insurance adjusters say it is too early to tell what the claims tally from current wildfires will be.

The biggest losses are expected to be from the High Park fire west of Fort Collins, where at least 257 homes are confirmed to have burned, and the Waldo Canyon fire west of Colorado Springs, where an unspecified hundreds of homes are believed to be lost.

Hail storms in early June produced auto and property claims of $321.1 million. That made the two-day storm the fourth-most expensive catastrophe in Colorado history.

There are some excellent photos here of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Also here’s an editorial with some common-sense policy ideas for exploration:

A U.S. Forest Service analysis found that 40 percent of homes built in the U.S. between 1990 and 2000 were in the WUI. In Colorado, the figure in that time was 50 percent.

A CSU analysis expects a 300 percent increase in WUI acreage in the next couple decades — from 715,500 acres in 2007 to 2.16 million acres in 2030. At the same time, hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut from the federal firefighting budget.

That leaves tough questions for governments, homeowners, and even the private sector. Among them:

Who should bear the cost of firefighting efforts given dwindling federal money?

Can foresters — as well as homeowners — do more wildfire mitigation work, and how might it be paid for?

Given the hodgepodge of local ordinances, would Colorado be better served by statewide fire-readiness standards for homes constructed in the WUI?

Should property insurers mandate — and monitor — defensible space as a condition of issuing policies?

We acknowledge that even well-managed forests can erupt in flames. And yes, there are instances where even the most fire-ready homes have been engulfed and left as ashes.

But until we take steps to come up with solutions to reduce wildfire risks in the wildland-urban interface, the property losses will only mount.

You might want to take a look at the comments, which run the gamut from more to less compassionate.. here’s one at the “more” end of the spectrum..

I am always amazed as to what people will use fires to achieve their own agendas, most notably this one…

Note from Sharon: That 40% of all homes in the US seems a bit high to me, does anyone know where that figure comes from (or what WUI definition they used?).

Finally, how about exploring some policy ideas.. within 10 years, states that don’t have statewide fire-readiness requirements for homeowners in the WUI won’t get state FS funding? Perhaps a bipartisan commission (or panel of experts) examines successes and failures of ordinances and CWPPs and comes up with recommendations? Or has this already been done?

5 thoughts on “More Coverage by Denver Post of Colorado Fires and One Policy Idea”

  1. Considering how far up into the hinderlands (upslope miles and miles from the forest boundary) our local WUI zone protrudes, it is not a surprise that so many homes are being built in the WUI zone these days.

    To be meaningful, these WUI depictions must be laid out with care, without local politics running the show. Running the show in an attempt to somehow increase the removal of forest products as a first priority, not the protection of homes and infrastructure. I would think that the insurance companies would want to ensure that these important high-hazard zones are honestly and accurately delineated.

    These fires do provide a great real-world lab to assess why some homes burned and others did not. I hope the fire professionals are taking full advantage of this.

  2. Ed, you must be from a part of the country with a viable forest products industry. Many, many parts of the interior west do not, and still have large WUI areas . Are you talking bout CWPPs when you say WUI in the hinterlands? Or someone else defining WUI?

  3. I am here in north Idaho, which once had a thriving forest product industry, but now is struggling. Don’t know what CWPPs are. All I know that the county has maps developed with the USFS and others that are labeled WUI. And the IPNF is using these in there project planning, and to justify activity in these areas, presumably to “protect” structures in the “hot zone”.

  4. CWPP is a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Here’s a link to a California site; it tells a lot about the CWPP process with links.

    Anyone with better information or additional links on CWPPS is invited to submit them.


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