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Colorado wildfire was most costly in the region

 Scorched homes in Louisville, Colo., from the 2021 Marshall Fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 structures.
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Scorched homes in Louisville, Colo., from the 2021 Marshall Fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 structures.

News brief

A recent insurance estimate found that a single wildfire in the Mountain West cost at least $2 billion dollars. It’s the most expensive fire in our region.

Many suburban homes were destroyed in the 2021 Marshall Fire in the communities of Superior and Louisville, near Denver. The Denver Post reported the new cost estimate and the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association listed the fire as the 10th most expensive in the United States.

Wildfire Researcher Kimiko Barrett with Headwaters Economics says those homes were built close together and had high property values, increasing insurance claims.

She says urban areas traditionally thought of as safe from wildfires are more exposed as fires intensify.

“It’s entire neighborhoods being burned, in some cases hundreds, if not thousands, of structures being lost in one wildfire,” she said. “These trends unfortunately are going to increase because the risks are increasing across the board.”

She says people are building in high-risk areas more than any other right now.

Barrett implores people to build neighborhoods with fewer flammable materials, avoiding things like wooden roofs or decks. And she calls on state and federal governments to provide subsidies and grants to help.

“If we are calling on homeowners to take additional steps to build their homes smarter and safer against wildfire, some homeowners may not be able to meet these high mitigation measures due to economic constraints,” Barrett said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has said that every dollar spent on wildfire mitigation efforts that exceed 2015 building codes, leads to $4 in long-term benefits. And the cost of mitigation measures was usually less than 5% of the cost of the structure and its contents.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 KUNM. To see more, visit KUNM.

Emma Gibson