2020 has been a standout year for natural disasters. It brought a record setting hurricane season and midwest storm season. Along with a longer than average hurricane season, a very active and destructive wildfire season dominated the headlines this fall. Over the last few months of 2020, fires raged through California and other western states, compromising air quality and causing massive evacuations and damage as the state dealt with the additional burden of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wildfires are a normal occurrence in California and other western states throughout the late summer and into the fall. Natural seasonal cycles cause an environment that is conducive to wildfires, but the causes of the fires aren’t always entirely natural.
Summer can be very hot and dry in the western United States, which causes a great deal of wild trees and brush to die off. This dry, dead material rests on the forest floors and ground where it can become kindling for natural or unnatural fires. Many seasonal fires are started, somewhat ironically, by storms. When lightning strikes the thick, dead brush, it can easily start a fire. Additionally, many fires are caused by human error. Discarded cigarettes, campfires, and even baby gender reveal parties have been known to ignite fires that burn thousands of acres. Just this year, a gender reveal party where a smoke bomb was used to deliver the happy news sparked the El Dorado fire, which burned over 22,000 acres, destroyed 10 home and other structures and caused damage to more.
2020 Fire Season Stats
While we only hear about a few of the larger fires, an average fire season has thousands of fires. For example, 2019 had just over 50,000 fires. However, 2020 was a record-breaking year. There were over 6000 more fires in 2020 then 2019, totaling about 57,000 total by the end of the year. When dealing with such high volume, that may not seem like much, but the damage from this year’s fires outburned 2019 by far. In 2019, 4.17 million acres burned, but in 2020, over 10 million did. The difference? The size and reach of the fires. In fact, 5 of the 20 largest California wildfires in history occurred in 2020. As of late September, experts estimated that insured losses were between $4 and $8 billion for California, Washington, and Oregon.
Insurance Adjusters Role in Wildfires
While we often think of catastrophe insurance adjusters as being a resource in tornadoes, hurricanes, and hail storms, they have an extremely important role in the aftermath of wildfires as well. These claims can also be more difficult to adjust. Different insurance companies and policies have different clauses about fires and fire damage. Some cases may be eligible for insurance coverage, but others may not depending on the cause of the fire. There is also additional risk for fraud, as arson can be a factor when wildfires occur nearby.
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What does this mean for you? California doesn’t offer reciprocity for insurance adjuster licensing, which means you can’t get a license to adjust in that state by simply having a license in another state. You can, however, get licensed there by taking and passing their state exam. If adjusting for fire claims interests you, we also get a fair amount of fire activity in Texas by virtue of our dry, hot climate.
This is the perfect time to start your career in insurance claims adjusting, and we can help you get started. Click here to check out our courses for new adjusters.