Q&A with RedZone, wildfire hazard data provider

by Jen Smoldt on July 12, 2018


Factors like smoke and wind-driven embers were critical to the 2017 California wildfires, which resulted in $13 billion in insured losses, yet traditional incumbent models didn’t account for them. RedZone does. Lead by actual fire-fighting professionals who understand the nuances behind this growing risk, RedZone is at the forefront of innovations is U.S. wildfire data science with its one-of-a-kind Fire Frequency Score. And someone needs to be, because it’s a fact that wildfire season is no longer “seasonal,” but year-round.

In this Q&A, we catch up with Clark Woodward, Founder and CEO of RedZone, who is on a mission to provide breakthrough wildfire data and risk models for events throughout the U.S. and abroad via their “RZRisk” data solution, accessed through SpatialKey, which includes zones of direct wildfire hazard, ember fall zones, and areas at risk for evacuation or smoke damage.

2017 wildfire recap:

  • According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 2017 saw 71,499 wildfires compared with 65,575 wildfires in 2016 for the same period 
  • Estimated $13 billion in insured losses in California wildfires alone, with the Thomas fire (281,893 acres burned) becoming the largest in state history
  • Insured losses from wildfires were the highest ever recorded, totaling $14 billion according to Swiss Re

Get to know RedZone with this quick 2-minute read, and then watch our webinar to learn how the wildfire landscape is changing, and how to leverage wildfire data science to gain new insight.

How did RedZone originate?

As a member of the Four Mile Fire Department in Boulder, CO, I saw a need to more effectively assess and mitigate fire risk. Translating this need into actionable intel during the 2010 Four Mile Canyon wildfire was one of our proudest moments as a company.

What can insurers expect from your data?

Underwriters are in the squeeze play of growing without getting ‘burned.’ Our data enables underwriters to more efficiently and confidently assess wildfire hazard for properties.

What’s the science behind your data?     

Data and outcomes are accepted and reviewed by professional fire service experts and local fire planning projects. And, model outcomes have been regression tested for efficacy against actual claims data by current subscribers and select carriers.


How does your solution solve the problems facing underwriters?

Simplistic ZIP code boundaries and distance-based buffers don’t reflect true risk and can restrict new business. We go beyond direct flame impingement to assess the risk of ember showers and smoke damage. Frequency, severity and history factors contribute to greater understanding, reliability and accuracy.

“Projected changes in climate, including warmer temperatures and prolonged periods of drought, are expected to continue to increase the frequency and severity of large fire events. Associated insurance losses will likely grow with more assets exposed to fire risk such as, for instance, the many new homes in the U.S. that have been built on land adjacent to forests and undeveloped natural areas.”                        -Swiss Re, Sigma 2018

How does SpatialKey empower your data?

We combine multiple hazards and an aggregate view of risk when visualized within SpatialKey—allowing insurers to, not only understand the imminent threat to a single location, but also see the portfolio impact. Relationships and trust are vital business components. SpatialKey bridges the gap, bringing data providers and insurers together through their unique multi-peril platform.  

What can we look forward to from RedZone?

A Wildfire Accumulation model that enables insurers/reinsurers to confidently set PML constraints.   

And just for fun...if your company were human, what would it be like?

Our guiding principles: Instinctive Technologist, Absolutely Reliable, Can-Do-Attitude, Loves Process, Continuous Improvement, Serving the Greater Good

Which superhero would your company be?

Iron Man, of course

What would your company’s theme song be?

“Smoke on the Water”


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