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Ongoing Drought Conditions Increase Wildfire Risk In The Southeast

November 16, 2016| By Chris Beston | Property | English

Region: North America

When we think of wildfires in the U.S., we typically associate them with the western states during the hot and dry summer months. But the reality is that wildfires happen all across our country and they are not limited to a specific time period. The Southeast has been experiencing a swarm of wildfire activity: on November 11, for example, there were over 35 wildfires greater than 100 acres in size and dozens of additional, smaller wildfires blanketing a wide geographic area. (See map below):

Despite heavy flooding rains in Louisiana and the effects of Hurricane Matthew along the Atlantic coast, many portions of the Southeast have been without rain for months. Much of the land extending from Mississippi to North Carolina has been experiencing "Extreme" to "Exceptional" drought conditions, as the U.S. Drought Monitor from November 8 shows below. These are similar drought conditions that have been seen in parts of California. This drought has created ideal conditions for wildfires: trees, bushes, grasses and other vegetation have become dry or dead, making them easily ignitable. Couple that with hilly terrain and high winds, and these wildfires have the ability to spread great distances while being challenging to contain.

Wildfires in the Southeast, however, are not an unprecedented event geographically. In fact, when you look at a 20-year period of wildfire activity in the U.S. you see that many areas outside of the western states are exposed to wildfire. (See Wildfire Activity by County map below for 1994–2013).

In September 2015, we published a checklist of things to look for when evaluating a location, which may be helpful to you in assessing risk for wildfire exposure.

Don’t hesitate to call your Gen Re representative if you would like to get a second opinion about a risk(s) for wildfire exposure or if you want to discuss the various facultative reinsurance options that can help transfer exposure. Being a direct reinsurer, we share in each risk that we write with our clients and have a vested interest in making sound underwriting decisions.


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