July 03--An exact accounting might be a year away, but the insurance industry is projecting payments for the Waldo Canyon blaze will be the most ever for a Colorado wildfire.
So far, the fire has destroyed 347 homes, and threatened more than 10,000 other structures. The roughly 18,000-acre wildfire started June 23, is about 70 percent contained and has cost more than $11 million to suppress.
Within the next year, the claims for insurance will roll in, and some expect costs to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
"We do not yet have an estimate," said Carole Walker of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.
"The Waldo Canyon Fire is certainly the most destructive wildfire in the state's history, in the sheer number of homes and the fact that most of them are in a suburban area."
Until the Waldo Canyon Fire blew up, the 87,000-acre High Park Fire near Fort Collins, now contained, was the most destructive, destroying 259 homes. Like Waldo Canyon, there is no official estimate of how much eventually will be paid in damages.
The nation's most destructive wildfire in recent years -- in terms of insured losses -- was the Oakland Hills Fire in California in October 1991. Claims of more than $1.7 billion ($2.8 billion in today's dollars) were paid as more than 3,000 homes were destroyed.
In Colorado, hailstorms are the most likely source of catastrophic damage, when they hit densely populated areas.
The state's most expensive hail season came in 2009, when multiple storms struck the Denver area and Pueblo.
"You see higher claims overall for hail because the damage is more widespread," Walker said.
"Tornadoes and fires are more personally devastating."
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