Year-long wildfire season causes problems for insurers

Published: November 2, 2018

Updated: November 20, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



British Columbia has had two consecutive record-breaking wildfire seasons, while Western Canada is moving into a climate change-induced situation where there is a year-round risk of wildfire. That’s the assessment of Dominic Ford, senior geospatial analyst for Verisk Analytics Inc.

Ford says the wildfire season normally run from April to September, but “that’s not really the case anymore”. The geography expert was speaking at the Insurance Analytics Canada Summit this week, when he highlighted the threat of fire along the whole North American Pacific coast.

“Whether you are looking at California or British Columbia, wildfire season is pretty much all year round now and never really stops.

“With climate change, we are seeing increased wind levels that change the way fires spread. They spread more rapidly, they are harder to control, they are harder to contain, and that puts additional risk on to your property and homeowners.”

In 2017, British Columbia faced a record wildfire season, with blazes costing insurance companies around $127 million. While few expected it, the 2018 season surpassed the previous year in terms of the amount of land that was burned, with 13,000 square kilometres affected.

Fort McMurrary

In 2016, the Fort McMurray wildfire in Alberta broke a record to become Canada’s biggest insurance loss, costing companies nearly $4 billion. It is clear fire is now becoming the leading threat to Canadians in terms of cat events caused by climate change.

Insurance companies and research groups are now pushing for more detailed wildfire risk methods, driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning. AI models can create data showing road networks, topography, historic events, and more, including remote sensing.