Firefighters Battle ‘Most Destructive Wildfire in Colorado History’

September 10, 2010

Approximately 700 firefighters have been battling a wildfire just outside Boulder, Colo., for five days. Meanwhile, Boulder residents are preparing to evacuate any time as the Fourmile Canyon fire spread to within 10 miles of the city.

According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, with winds gusting to 30 miles per hour Thursday night — only half as strong as expected — firefighters were able to keep the Fourmile Canyon fire contained at about 30 percent. Yet the fire has burned 6,422 acres, destroyed 172 structures and incurred $4 million in claims to date, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center.

Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said it was too early to predict total insured losses, but noted residents forced out of their homes on mandatory evacuation orders would be eligible for additional living expenses coverage.

Dr. Tomas Girnius, senior research scientist at AIR Worldwide, called the fire “the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.” “Residential construction in the Boulder area is dominated by low-rise wood frame houses. Perhaps 10 to 20 percent have masonry exterior walls, and are therefore somewhat less vulnerable. The relatively few commercial buildings in the area of the fire are of more mixed construction, with wood being common for smaller commercial buildings,” he said.

AIR estimates that the total value of residential properties in ZIP Code 80302, which encompasses the area of the fire, is about $2.8 billion, although that ZIP Code extends beyond the current perimeter.

The state’s most destructive fire previously, the Hayman Fire in 2002, destroyed 133 buildings. That fire, however, burned nearly 140,000 acres, while the Fourmile Canyon fire currently is contained at about 6,500 acres, AIR Worldwide indicated.

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