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Waldo Canyon fire most expensive in state history

By: ANDREW WINEKE
July 17, 2012
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photo -   Kate Stefani digs through her home and finds some burned kitchen pots, pans, and utensils.   Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/THE GAZETTE
Kate Stefani digs through her home and finds some burned kitchen pots, pans, and utensils. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT/THE GAZETTE 

Insurance claims from the Waldo Canyon fire are estimated to total more than $352.6 million according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, making the blaze the most expensive in Colorado history.

“The 2012 wildfire season is a heartbreaking reminder to Coloradans that the wildfire threat is very real in our state and can exact a price that is both personally devastating and costly in terms of insurance damage,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. “Insurance catastrophe adjusters have been on the ground in our state since early June, and the industry is prepared to help impacted residents recover and communities rebuild.”

More than 4,300 claims have been filed for losses associated with the Waldo Canyon fire. The loss of homes is the largest part of the $352.6 million estimate, Walker said. The estimate, however, does not include commercial losses such as the Flying W Ranch.

With the new estimate, the Waldo Canyon fire eclipses 2010’s $224 million Fourmile Canyon fire.

“Waldo Canyon is by far our most expensive wildfire,” Walker said. “Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, the potential is there for a much more expensive wildfire.”

The High Park Fire near Fort Collins, which burned 259 homes, is estimated to cost insurers $97.1 million. So far in 2012, wildfires have cost $449.7 million in Colorado, already making this the most expensive wildfire year for the state.

The other costs of combating the Waldo Canyon fire are not as large as the insured losses, but still plenty expensive: The U.S. Forest Service spent about $13 million fighting the fire, the City of Colorado Springs racked up more than $4 million in overtime, Colorado Springs Utilities has spent more than $2.7 million in overtime and to restore utilities to the heavily damaged Mountain Shadows neighborhood. Colorado Springs officials are still tallying the damage to roads and other infrastructure in the area, while the Forest Service is bidding out flood mitigation work.

The tally of lost business is unknown, but certainly huge as the fire closed many of the region’s major tourist attractions at the height of the summer season, while many tourists and groups canceled or postponed planned trips to the area. Fred Crowley, senior economist with the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, said it was likely millions of dollars a day during the fire.

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