Risk Ratings Weighed for Homes in Fire-Prone Areas

September 9, 2013

A state task force is mulling a plan that would assign more than 550,000 Colorado homes in wildfire-prone areas a risk rating that would be provided to insurance companies.

The task force also discussed plans Wednesday for a fee on homes in fire zones to help pay for local fire-prevention efforts, The Denver Post reports.

The Task Force on Wildfire Insurance and Forest Health has until Sept. 30 to submit ideas for keeping forests healthy and limiting wildfire damage to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who established the group.

The Legislature would have the final say on whether the proposals are enacted.

Colorado Springs, Colo., June 30, 2012 --  Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA
Colorado Springs, Colo., June 30, 2012 — Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

The rating system would use a 1-to-10 scale. Homes classified as higher-risk would have to undergo reviews by state foresters, who would specify actions the owners should take to mitigate wildfire danger.

Independent state evaluators would assign the risk ratings using standard criteria so all insurance companies would be using the same numbers, said Routt County Commissioner Douglas Monger, a task force member.

A homebuilder representative on the task force warned that risk ratings could drive down property values and make insurance hard to get.

“You’d be setting up a blacklist of homes that you’re going to have problems insuring,” said Amie Mayhew, CEO of the Colorado Association of Homebuilders.

Carole Walker, director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, cautioned against state interference in the underwriting process.

“If there’s some blanket assessment we have to use, that makes some people uncomfortable,” she said.

Other members said the state needs to act soon.

“If we don’t do anything now, we’re going to have this problem exacerbated by development in the WUI (wildland-urban interface),” said Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies and chairwoman of the task force.

She said up to 40 percent of future residential development in Colorado is projected to be in wildfire-prone areas.

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