Waldo Canyon Fire Still Most Expensive Wildfire In State History

Credit: Debra Bowie. Bowie says this was taken as her family evacuated on June 26, 2012.
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The second most destructive wildfire in state history remains the most expensive, according to preliminary insurance estimates released Monday.

As of June 2013, insurance estimates for the Waldo Canyon Fire are at $453.7 million, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. More than 6,600 insurance claims have been filed.
This is a huge jump from the estimates released in 2012, which had damages for the Waldo Canyon Fire at $352.6 million based on 4,300 claims.

The Black Forest Fire has already catapulted near the top of the list of most expensive wildfires based on early insurance estimates, at $292.8 million in damages based on the 3,630 homeowner and auto claims already filed. This makes it the second most expensive wildfire in state history.

RMIIA says that the area hardest hit by the Waldo Canyon Fire--Mountain Shadows--is a much more densely populated area than Black Forest, which may explain why it added up to more overall damage claims.

Many homeowners in Southern Colorado have expressed concern about future coverage.

Insurance experts tell 11 News, even with the large number of claims, its unlikely an agency will deny coverage to an entire area.

However they do say homeowners here in our area will likely see some changes and in some cases an increase in costs.

Lisa Brackett and her family were evacuated from their home during the Black Forest Fire. During that time, she said their insurance company gave them a check to help cover any damages and food spoilage.

"When we got the money we realized we don't need this money so we contacted our insurance company and they accepted the money back," Brackett said.

The next week, their insurance company told them they filed a claim and raised their rates.

"My first thought was gee, you know. But we did the right thing. Now I don't want anyone else to suffer or their rates go up too, that's not right," Brackett said.

The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information association says while agencies don’t often deny coverage, they will likely ask for homeowners in high-risk areas to do more mitigation.

Some Insurance agencies may even want to re-inspect your home to make sure you know what changes need to be made.

Of course, if homeowners do not comply with the mitigation requirements then there is a chance an agency may not want to insure that home.

Cally O’Donnell an expert with Allstate says many of their clients already have those guidelines and in some cases it has saved their homes.

"We did that throughout the years and we're seeing less of our clients be impacted from having those total losses. So the areas around their house--their house is standing and maybe their outbuilding was lost and so I just think it's significant. I think it's something as an industry you're going to see a lot more attention being paid toward," O’Donnell said.

As far as costs the RMIIA says premiums are on the rise in Colorado because of the pattern we are currently in. On top of a homeowners individual risk assessment our area is also flagged for things like hail and of course wildfires. Those additional risks will increase costs for everyone even if you haven’t made a claim.