Wildfires in California

Taking the heat

Each wildfire season in California seems worse than the last, but new technology is helping to contain the property damage...

The Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in California’s history of raging firestorms was the latest in a series of devastating fires that have this year stretched from the Oregon border in northern California down to the Los Angeles suburbs in the south.

Of the 20 largest wildfires in California history, 15 have occurred since 2000. Data show the frequency of wildfires has remained relatively constant, but their size, volatility and impact has dramatically increased. Reinsurance and risk modeling experts now speak of “mega-fires” and “the new abnormal” to describe the scorched scenes of devastation that severe wildfires leave.

Fight against fire

The increasing intensity of wildfires is inspiring new methods to combat them. One of the more novel and effective to protect property is the spraying of environmentally-safe, biodegradable, inert fire-retardant foam around a property’s perimeter and buildings when fire threat is greatest.

One foam solution, marketed by Consumer Fire Products Inc (CFPI), a brigade of trained fire professionals that provide wildfire property protection, is applied manually from private fire trucks fashioned with state-of-the-art equipment. The brigades works closely with local incident command centers as they operate within the active fire zones.

Threat watch

In 2018, the Allianz Risk Consulting (ARC) and MidCorp Underwriting teams identified the Mendocino Complex and Woolsey Fires as particularly dangerous firestorms. They engaged CPFI to proactively protect the exposed property of clients.

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) worked with CFPI to evaluate exposed locations, assess fire threat and prioritize deployment of resources. Eight midcrop customers, ranging from packaging firms to small businesses and farms and ranches were seen as having significant exposure to the forecast fire path.

CFPI then patrolled these eight Allianz-insured locations and undertook preventative measures. These included clearing brush, relocating flammable materials away from constructions, and spraying buildings and foliage with biodegradable, inert fire-retardant foam when the fire threat became imminent.

Scott Steinmetz, Global Head of MidCorp Risk Consulting at AGCS, says that CFPI is continuing to provide ongoing monitoring support as it is extremely difficult to know where the next threat is coming from given the extreme volatility around California.

“We are pleased to contribute to communities struggling to manage exposure to such extreme catastrophe events such as wildfires,” he says. “Our efforts are part of the new frontier in predictive and proactive mitigation responses that are to be expected from the insurance industry.”

Knowing exactly where to invest and deploy protective services in real-time is still not possible.

However, concerted monitoring enables protection services, once deployed, to continue until conditions such as wind speed, low humidity and underbrush dryness diminish over a seven-day period to where the services could safely be discontinued. 

Press contact

Susanne Seemann
Allianz SE

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