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Thousands of homes at risk from Northern California wildfires

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A total of 172,117 homes with a combined reconstruction cost value of more than $65 billion are at some level of risk from the wildfires in the Napa and Santa Rosa, California, metropolitan areas, Irvine, California-based CoreLogic Inc. said Tuesday.

The analysis is calculated based on homes within these two Core Based Statistical Areas, or CBSAs, and on five active fires: Patrick, Atlas Peak and Tubbs in Napa; and Nuns and Pocket in Santa Rosa. 

Statewide, a total of 9.1 million homes with a combined RCV of $3.1 trillion are at some level of risk from wildfires in California, CoreLogic said.

Of the total at-risk homes in Napa and Santa Rosa, 11,058, or 6%, with an estimated reconstruction cost value of more than $5 billion, are at significant risk of damage, falling in the high and extreme risk categories, CoreLogic said. 

While the majority of homes — 161,059, or 94% — are at low or moderate risk of damage, wildfire can easily expand to adjacent properties and cause significant damage even if a property is not considered high risk in its own right. 

Separately, Kevin Van Leer, wildfire expert for Newark, California-based Risk Management Solutions Inc., said in a statement that “the 14 fires burning across swaths of eight counties in Northern California were spread quickly by Diablo wind gusts up to 70 mph overnight,” referring to Sunday night into Monday morning. 

“These strong winds caused the fires to spread quickly,” Mr. Van Leer continued. “The Tubbs Fire grew from 200 acres on Sunday night to over 20,000 acres by Monday morning and is now over 27,000 acres.”

Mr. Van Leer said that the Tubbs Fire, which is just north of Santa Rosa, and the Atlas Peak Fire, just north of Napa, have destroyed over 50,000 acres of land combined, and affected several wineries along with residential and commercial structures. Thus far, he said, 1,500 structures are reportedly destroyed, making this at least the fifth-most destructive fire in California history.
 
RMS analysis shows that there are about 15,000 structures in the overlap of the burn area and exposure, Mr. Van Leer said, though not all structures within the footprint will be damaged. In addition to the burned structure damage, RMS said, smoke may also be a major source of loss from this event. 

The Association of California Insurance Companies said thousands of homeowners are facing the need to file insurance claims to rebuild their homes.

ACIC President Mark Sektnan said insurers can provide funding to help those impacted move out of the evacuation center and into a hotel room. 

“Additional living expenses are covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy,” Mr. Sektnan said, “so policyholders should keep their hotel and meal receipts. Homeowners should also continue to listen to authorities and evacuate when asked. Insurers will be moving their catastrophe response teams into local assistance centers and immediately start working with policyholders.”