The wildfire outbreaks in Hawaii have reportedly destroyed 1,700+ buildings so far, indicating a potentially widespread loss for the re/insurance industry, while the death toll has risen to 55, with 1,000 people missing. .
According to CoreLogic’s hazard blog from August 10, the greatest concentration of damage was in Lahaina, a town on Maui’s west coast.
According to a Maui County press release from August 9, 271 structures were damaged or destroyed in the town of 13,000.
The Governor of Hawaii, Josh Green, has since issued a fourth emergency proclamation related to the fires, which he said have destroyed an estimated 1,700 buildings.
Dr. Thomas Jeffery, CoreLogic Principal Wildfire Scientist, commented, “The source and ignition of the fire is still undetermined, but as the fire moved into more developed regions of Lahaina, it appears that the fire was able to intensify and spread.” immediately.
“The wind likely pushed the embers and fire into the built environment, and then the buildings in Lahaina became the primary source of fuel for the fire’s spread.”
CoreLogic noted that the situation in Maui is currently ongoing and that the full extent of the damage will not be known for some time.
Meanwhile, analysts in a recent BMS report emphasized that Hawaii always has a wildfire problem, adding that every year, 0.5% of Hawaii’s total land is burned, which is equal to or more in proportion to that burned in any other US State.
“We haven’t heard about it because large fires on the mainland affecting more important populations have grabbed the headlines so far,” BMS analysts explained.
The analysts continued, “According to the FEMA National Risk Index for the census tract that includes Lahaina along the coast, the building value totaled $847m.
“Given some simple analysis, this loss would be the highest since Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which in today’s dollars, would be a $3.3B insured loss.”
BMS says other recent events with significant insured losses in the state include the eruption of the Kīlauea volcano in 2018. In today’s dollars, this equates to $338M in losses, and Hurricane Lane , also in 2018, resulting in a loss of $58M.
BMS analysts concluded, “At this time, it is too early to provide an insurance industry loss estimate for the Lahaina wildfire. We see a long period of loss growth from the events of wildfire because there is uncertainty about replacement cost, loss of use, and business disruption, all of which come into play.