A burning need for better wildfire perimeter data

by Jen Smoldt on July 24, 2019

NASA camp fire

Insurers have always been a step behind with their wildfire event response efforts. Namely because of how quickly a wildfire moves and how slowly perimeter data has historically been generated. This means carriers are often left in the dark during an event, not knowing which insureds have been or could be impacted. With the past several years seeing steep increases in the severity of wildfire events—$12 billion in insured losses in California alone in 2018, and nearly that same amount in 2017—now is the time for carriers to ensure every measure is being taken to get in front of this year’s wildfires.  

“The headline is: these fires are not going away. There’s no indication that we will have anything other than a repeat of 2018 in 2019,” stated California’s insurance commissioner Ricardo Lara recently. “We had an extremely wet winter, but all that means for us is that the fire season might start later—but we will certainly have one.”

Like a tornado, a wildfire can leave one property leveled and its neighbor unscathed—jumping houses, neighborhoods, and boundaries with seemingly no rhyme or reason. The devastation seen with last year’s Camp Fire, which consumed everything in its path and leveled the town of Paradise, wasn’t what happened in Malibu with the Woolsey fire, which hopped the Pacific Coast highway. 

Now, innovations in data and analytics are helping carriers keep pace with the speed that wildfires move, and most importantly, be more proactive with their mitigation and event response efforts.


Wildfire perimeter data available within SpatialKey

Understanding the potential path of a wildfire is crucial, as they can spread incredibly fast. In fact, 2017’s Northern California fires (Napa fire) advanced at a rate of more than a football field every three seconds. Instead of guessing about how a fire has grown and which insureds are impacted, insurers can access regular fire boundary updates within SpatialKey for a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of exposure. By overlaying the latest fire perimeter data, including multiple models such as RedZone, GeoMac, and NASA data (all available during last year’s California fires), with portfolio data, insurance professionals can visualize exposure, apply buffers and filters, and understand TIV and/or policy exposed limits.

For example, SpatialKey's integration with NASA’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) provides detailed updates multiple times a day to our insurance clients, allowing for faster and more accurate wildfire perimeters than any other source.

NASA data

NASA woolsey and hill fires

Fire perimeter data from NASA is available for SpatialKey customers to license. This data has built in buffers set at 1 mile, 2 miles, and 3 miles from the perimeter. Overlay your portfolio to understand which insureds are inside the perimeter and apply buffers to understand impact. NASA wildfire perimeters are updated daily and available on our licensed wildfire event site.  

 GeoMac data

GeoMac fire data

GeoMac fire perimeter data is available to SpatialKey customers on our new licensed wildfire event site. 


RedZone data 

RedZone woolsey and hill fires

Data from wildfire modeler, RedZone, goes beyond direct flame impingement to assess the risk of ember showers and smoke damage, as well as frequency, severity, and history factors that contribute to greater reliability and accuracy. 

As always, all of the above data can be used within SpatialKey for a more comprehensive view of risk using multiple sources of data. Make sure you’re prepared with the data you need this wildfire season. Reach out to your SpatialKey account manager directly, or contact us. And, subscribe to our blog to stay informed about wildfire risk this season: 


Topics: Event response, wildfire data, California Wildfires, Wildfire exposure

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