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Damage estimate from Black Forest fire revised upward to $420.5 million

By: Elise Schmelzer newspaper
June 5, 2014 Updated: June 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm
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The Black Forest fire just got a whole lot worse - about $128 million dollars worse.

On Thursday, the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said it had updated damage estimates from the June 2013 fire to $420.5 million, up from preliminary estimates of $292.8 million made in the weeks after the blaze.

Despite the 44 percent jump in damage estimates, the Black Forest fire remains Colorado's second most the expensive wildfire, the insurance association noted. The 2012 Waldo Canyon fire is still the state's most costly wildfire, in terms of insured losses.

It's not unusual for figures from disasters to be revised, said Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, said. The original figure is an "initial snapshot" for insurance companies, but the number rises as affected residents file claims for losses that are difficult to estimate, like personal property and living expenses while displaced by the fire.

The estimated damage is not expected to rise much further since almost all claims have been filed, Walker said. By now, most are closed or are expected to close soon.

Although the Black Forest fire burned more structures, the Waldo Canyon fire caused $453.7 million in insured losses at the time - or $460.3 million in 2013 dollars, the insurance association said.

The Black Forest fire generated about 4,173 auto and homeowner claims, compared with 6,648 claims filed after the Waldo Canyon fire.

The difference between the two fires can be explained, in part, by differences between the more rural Black Forest area and the more urban and heavily populated Mountain Shadows area, where the Waldo Fire unleashed its fury.

Because the structures affected by the Waldo Canyon fire were close together, even those not touched by flames had smoke damage or other forms of indirect damage, Walker said. In contrast, the structures in the Black Forest fire area were more spread out and were almost always either a total loss or unaffected, Walker said.

City homes, like those affected by the Waldo Canyon fire, also often have higher values, and owners can claim more in damage, Walker said. And the higher population density in the Waldo Canyon fire meant more personal property was lost.

Though both were devastating, the two wildfires shouldn't cause Colorado Springs insurance rates to rise, Walker said.

"Rates are not based on one fire or one storm. They're looking for patterns or trends," she said.

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