The Costs of Fires Are Going to Hit Home

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Diana Webb took this photo on June 26 when the Waldo Canyon Fire exploded.

Diana Webb took this photo on June 26 when the Waldo Canyon Fire exploded.

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

This week brought us headlines from just some of the financial implications of the wild fires this year. If you missed it, two big stories happened that should get your attention.

One, the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association reported that insurers will pay out over $450 million dollars to the people who lost their homes or sustained heavy damage in the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.

Secondly, The Denver Post reported that its studies of tax records show that Larimer County will lose more than $55 million dollars in property tax revenue from the homes lost in the High Park fire near Ft. Collins and in the Woodland Heights near Estes Park. Studies from El Paso County have yet to be released.

This may sound like big numbers that will affect other people. However, even if we live far away from Larimer and El Paso Counties, these numbers show that these fires will affect all of us in many ways.

Insurance companies are like all other private companies. When they incur higher costs, they spread them around to all of their customers. Insurance companies cannot make up nearly one half of one billion dollars from just the people they insure in forested communities. They will spread the pain throughout their client base.

I’m not suggesting that your own home insurance rates are going to skyrocket tomorrow. But it follows logic that if it more expensive to get insured in Florida due to the regular damage sustained in hurricanes, that it may get more expensive here in Colorado due to damage from wildfires.

It’s not like the fires this year were the only ones to cause costly damage in Colorado. Only a year ago the Four Mile Fire, Colorado’s formerly most expensive and damaging fire, burned many homes north of Boulder.

With the Pine Beetle crisis seemingly turning more of our beloved forests gray and into future fire fuel, no one expects wildfire frequency in Colorado to decrease.

Put it this way, if you insured homes in Colorado and our fire danger was only going to go up, what would you do with your rates?

The second problem may seem more isolated, and it will start out that way, but I believe will affect all of us sooner or later.

If Larimer County’s property tax revenue hit will be $55 million, the yet to be figured tab for El Paso will likely be even more. While the immediate hit will be to each of those counties, it is not far fetched that they will need some sort of assistance from the state. Where exactly the state will get the money, I have no idea. However, help will need to come from somewhere.

Colorado can’t simply ignore emergency needs from these two counties, just like it couldn’t ignore any other county in need. And frankly, I think even some of my Libertarian friends would agree that a state government should be there in the case of emergency for county governments.

Colorado always comes together when disaster strikes. We have a strong sense of community and we back it up with our generosity in our talent, time and treasure.

That sense of community and everyone pulling together will be needed as we all help share the pain from these fires and gird ourselves for future fires.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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