State Farm Expects $10M-plus Loss From Oklahoma Fires

April 15, 2009

Oklahoma’s largest insurer expects to see more than $10 million in home and automobile damage claims from recent wildfires.

State Farm Insurance spokesman John Wiscaver said the company is working on more than 1,000 claims from the fires.

State officials have said 100 to 150 homes were destroyed statewide by fires that began in dry, windy conditions on April 9. Many more were damaged. The Midwest City area and portions of southern Oklahoma were especially hard hit.

Wiscaver said the loss is one of the largest the company has seen in recent years in this area from wildfires, but will not approach the damage of some of Oklahoma’s historic tornado outbreaks.

“This is a challenging one because it’s so widespread,” Wiscaver said. “We have everything from significant, larger losses to fairly minor damage.”

He said the claims will not drive up the cost of insurance.

Wood shingle roofs can be vulnerable to fire damage and it costs more to insure them, but it’s not clear if this type of roof accounted for more damage than composition roofs in this outbreak, Wiscaver said.

“The sheer nature of these losses, the high winds and the fact that these fires were significant in size mean that there may not have been anything anyone could do if they were in the line of those fires,” he said.

Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency beagan inspection tours on April 14 of areas where homes were destroyed.

Spokeswoman Michelann Ooten of the state Emergency Management Department said inspectors will gauge how much uninsured loss occurred in order to determine the extent of federal disaster aid that may be made available.

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