Insurance and Wildfire in the 285 Corridor

Courtesy of:  The Denver Post

Courtesy of: The Denver Post

We’re hearing a lot about Homeowners policies being hiked and cancelled recently because of the threat of Wildfires. It appears that both USAA and Allstate have stopped writing new policies. Some companies have just pulled up roots and run away. This can be doubly distressing for those looking to purchase/sell homes in the area. We wanted to look into this and see if we can help.

Brian Himmelman ( State Farm,  Website ), a local agent in Conifer says that he hasn’t had too much trouble getting insurance for people who have been cancelled or need insurance on a new mortgage. With one caveat: Defensible Space mitigation needs to be completed. We have also heard that Creekside Insurance (Travelers, Website) in Aspen Park, as well as Crow Hill Insurance( Safeco,  Website) can help insure homes in the area. Other Insurance Companies include:  American Family Insurance, Country Financial and Auto Owners home insurance.

There doesn’t seem to be a Defensible Space standard shared by all insurance companies, but the firewise recommendations are a good place to start. Your local fire departments are a good place to start, they are happy to take a look at your property and make recommendations, time permitting. Our local Depts. are mostly volunteer, so don’t wait until fire season begins to call them. That will likely lead to a wait time.

If you are planning to sell, it is our recommendation that you perform Defensible Space mitigation prior to the sale. If you are buying, you can save yourself potential hassles by either requiring, or aiding in the completion of mitigation prior to your purchase. We have heard rumors that a properly mitigated property has a higher value on the market. While we were unable to actually find an instance of this occurring, it does seem to make sense. And certainly, in the future, this might become the stick insurance companies use to make mitigation happen. The fact of the matter is, you are responsible for your own mitigation. Non-profits, such as the Coalition for the Upper South Platte try to help homeowners with grants, when available. But these grants for private property come and go quickly. We want to help you help your selves.

Mitigation can be either time consuming, or expensive, or both. But the benefit far outweighs these costs. Living in Colorado, there is a tax credit for fire mitigation that available to homeowners until 2024. This will cover up to 50% of costs up to $2500 per Tax Year. This credit only covers “actual out-of-pocket expense incurred and paid by the landowner and documented by receipt for performing wildfire mitigation measures.”  It would be nice if work by the landowner could be documented and claimed, but that is not how the language is written.- now is a good time to call or email your State Congressman. But remember- doing this work not only makes you insurable in these uncertain times- it could very well Save Your Home, and everything in it.
You need to be covered by a CWPP in order to take this credit, and the good news is: you almost certainly are:

Park County CWPP

Jefferson County CWPP

Douglas County CWPP

Colorado’s Forests: Challenges and Opportunities

The Colorado State Forest Service has produced a series of informative videos covering the challenges in our forests and what can be done and is being done to address these challenges.

Take a look at the Colorado’s Forests: Challenges and Opportunities video series:

Part 1: Background and Forest Issues of Concerns

Part 2: Forest Management as a Solution

Part 3: The Challenge of a Growing WUI

Part 4: The Importance of a Wood Products Industry 

After Wildfire Guide

The ‘After Wildfire: A Guide for New Mexico Communities’ website is a great resource for understanding what to do after a large wildfire.  Although the guide is tailored for  New Mexico communities, much of the information is relevant for communities grappling with post-fire impacts throughout the West.  The guide is also useful for preparing for wildfires and post-fire flooding before disaster strikes.

The website includes information on:


Local Responses to Wildfire Risks Are Limited

In a study by Headwaters Economics, it was found western communities are doing relatively little to meaningfully respond to wildfire risk.  Understanding challenges in high-risk communities is critical for figuring out how policies and proactive measures can reduce risks.

Lessons highlighted include:

  • Lack of local resources is a significant obstacle
  • Lack of local political will may be as significant as lack of resources
  • A high level of cooperation among government bodies is important
  • Education is essential to overcome denial and complacency
  • How wildfire risk is presented is critical to gaining support
  • It is impossible to be continually “Firewise” or fire safe
  • WUI development restricts forest management options
  • Fuel treatments are critical, but implementing them in the WUI is not enough

Learn more about these lessons and potential policy implications by reading the entire brief by Headwaters Economics.  

Study Finds No Evidence Firewise Lowers Suppression Costs

Very interesting finding from Headwaters Economics – the Firewise program is effective at what it was designed to do (increase safety), but is not associated with lower suppression costs.  Read the full brief on the Headwaters Economics website.

The Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program often is mentioned as a potential remedy. However, Firewise focuses on increasing safety and was not designed to lower suppression costs.

The costs of fighting wildfires has become a major policy issue in the United States, and there is general agreement that both the area burned by wildfires and the frequency of large fires, often termed “mega-fires,” will increase in coming decades.

As a result, policy makers, land owners, and wildfire managers are seeking viable solutions to reduce wildfire risks and costs. One often-talked about remedy is the voluntary Firewise Program. Such efforts—focusing largely on reducing fuels and making structures safer from fires—can provide a safer environment for firefighters and enable more structures to be saved.

The Firewise Program was not designed to lower suppression costs, and our research finds no evidence of a relationship between wildfire suppression costs and Firewise participation.

The lack of evidence that Firewise reduces suppression costs suggests that policy makers attempting to address increasing wildfire suppression costs are better served focusing on other solutions, such as shifting costs to the local jurisdictions and property owners incurring wildfire liabilities and limiting future development in fire-prone landscapes.

The challenges of wildfire suppression are two-fold and necessitate different approaches for addressing issues in built environments compared to where no development yet exists. In wildfire-prone areas with built homes, suppression resources and mitigation efforts, including the Firewise Program, are critical for protecting people and property.

However, because the vast majority of private land in the western WUI is not yet developed (84%), solutions are needed to address the potential for expanded development and associated wildfire risk. For now, it appears that the Firewise Program is not a solution for reining in suppression costs when wildfires threaten communities.

Major mitigation work continues in the Colorado Springs area

There’s a tremendous amount of wildfire and flood mitigation work going on in the Pikes Peak Region, but much more is needed.  It’s important for government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, communities, other organizations, and individuals to all work together to mitigate the impacts of the next wildfires and floods.  When we all work together to tackle these issues on a large scale, the impact is much greater than the sum of the parts, and communities are much safer.

Check out this great article – Major mitigation work continues in the Colorado Springs area – by the Colorado Springs Gazette to learn more about current efforts and the challenges of landscape-scale mitigation.