Fort McMurray fire was costliest insurance loss in Canada

Published: July 2, 2016

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The devastating wildfire dubbed the Beast swept through Fort McMurray and the surrounding area of Northern Alberta in May. At the time forecasts predicted it as the costliest insurance event in Canadian history, and now that prediction has been stated as fact. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) confirmed on Thursday that the fire was indeed Canada’s most expensive disaster.

According to the IBC, around $3.58 billion in damage is expected from the disaster. This is still short of the $4.5 billion modest estimate and way short of the early $9 billion predictions, but still a seismic loss event for the insurance industry.

"Ultimately what we are seeing is that our climate is changing, and the long-term trends are directly a result of some of those dynamics," Bill Adams, Western and Pacific vice-president for the bureau, said.

In the wake of the event, the IBC is pushing for stronger regulations on building codes and land use to keep people and homes away from high risk areas. Flood plains and flammable plains should not be built on any more, Adams argues, saying that Canada does not learn from previous catastrophes.

"Historically, we have not done that well in Canada and perhaps less so in Alberta," he said. "Unfortunately, we're living with the consequences."

The fact that the town of Fort McMurray was inundated by fire has led to a rethinking of town development so close to potential climate disasters. 90,000 residents were displaces and over 2000 buildings were destroyed in the fire. Only recently, after two months, as the state of emergency ended as residents attempt to rebuild their lives.

Insurance companies must also rebuild. The disaster will have impact on individual carriers and will likely impact their end of year financials.