California Fire Damage Estimated at $25.4 Billion

(Bloomberg) -- Damages from the fires ripping across California could run as high as $25.4 billion, and the risks are bound to keep rising.

The Kincade fire cost could be $10.6 billion, while the tally in Southern California could reach $14.8 billion mainly from the Tick, Getty and Saddle Ridge blazes, according to Chuck Watson, disaster modeler at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia.

Watson uses a database that slices the Earth into quarter-mile (365 meter) squares, augmented by assessment maps, photographs and other reports. In the case of California’s wildfires, he also uses infrared scans generated by a U.S. polar-orbiting satellite that shows the exact extent of the fire. Then, he said, he gets his estimate by overlaying the burn scar withing the quarter-mile grid.

“The methodology is the same in any given disaster from landslides, to war zones to nuclear bombs,” Watson said by telephone.

Damage estimates also can vary because some only contain insured losses, while others take in everything that was destroyed. After disasters, many people will pay for repairs out of their own pocket, which often leads to under counting.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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