July 22, 2018 | IN Blog

A deeper look at the Klamathon Fire

Natural disasters are by definition a bad thing.  One of the problems of being in the hazard determination business is that for us to prove ourselves correct in our assessment, something really bad has happened.  We take no joy in being right, as it comes due to the tragedy of someone else.

One of our competitors recently claimed they had successfully identified 61% of the properties in the Klamathon Fire as being at high or very high risk. That number is WAY too low.  If you’re relying on that tool, you would be undercounting your potential risk by more than a third.

 

So what’s your data showing? 

In looking at the Klamathon Fire we rated every property inside the burn perimeter as either high or very high.  Here’s the actual data –

HazardHub Wildfire Score % of Locations
D: High 5.2%
D: High  < 1,000 feet from High or Very High Risk Area 11.3%
F: Very High 83.5%
Grand Total 100.0%

 

Had an insurance company or municipality used our scoring, they would have been able to work with their property owners to take the proper mitigation steps like clearing grass lots or moving wood piles away from the side of the house.  Proper mitigation cannot save every property and prevent every tragedy but it can and does save numerous properties in every type of natural disaster.

 

But doesn’t declaring an area high or very high just mean that HazardHub is simply overexaggerating the risk?

We’re glad you asked.

However random they seem, natural hazards tend to have some consistency as the conditions need to be just right for a wildfire to get out of control.  It’s also why you don’t see hurricanes in Chicago and Tsunamis in Atlanta – the conditions need to be right.

We believe that areas that look like wildfire areas should be classified that way.  We look at a combination of factors to decide the overall risk of a property. Sometimes people think we’re just being too cautious…but we leave opinion out of it and strictly look at as much data as we can.

One way we can see the potential risk is by looking at areas that have burned before.

Proximity to Previous Known Wildfires  % of Locations
risk: <= 1 mile from historic wildfire perimeter 52.6%
risk: > 1 mile from historic wildfire perimeter 30.5%
risk: Inside historic wildfire perimeter 16.9%
Grand Total 100.0%

 

What’s telling about this chart is that almost 17% of these properties are in an area that has burned before. What’s more notable is that more than 83% are some distance away. People often get a false sense of security that “it’ll never happen to me.” However, the conditions in this area were (and are) ripe for fire.

 

Have there been other wildfires in that area in the past?

As a matter of fact, there have been several. While many of the properties in this current wildfire area had not been hit by a wildfire, the area is prone to the conditions where wildfire can thrive.

 

Previous wildfires that have occurred in this area include:

2000 Horn Fire

2001 Hornbrook Fire

2001 Hutton Fire

2004 Irongate Fire

2010 Bailey Fire

2013 Cottonwood Fire

 

What about the impact of fire stations?

Another issue with this area is that there are not a lot of fire stations.  We look at the number of fire stations within five (5) drive miles of each property, as it’s a critical factor in suppressing the spread of a fire.  Properties with fewer than five (5) fire stations in a five (5) drive mile radius are twice as likely to be destroyed in a fire – any type of fire.  In the Klamathon Fire, 26% of the properties have no fire stations with five (5) drive miles.

Number of Fire Stations Within 5 Miles  % of Locations
0 26.0%
1 7.6%
2 46.6%
3 19.8%
Grand Total 100.0%

 

When you add up all the data, this is a dangerous area for wildfires.  The fire comes where it can get fuel.  This area had all of the elements needed to feed a growing wildfire. What’s even more important is that the surrounding area still maintains a high degree of wildfire risk, especially given that the area also has an elevated drought score.

The HazardHub Wildfire model – and our supporting data for vegetation burn points, previous wildfires, fire stations, fire hydrants, precipitation levels, and fire determining winds – is your best source for properly assessing wildfire risk. To learn more, contact us at support@hazardhub.com today.