Gravenhurst Makes List Of Highest Risk During 2024 Wildfire Season And Impact On Home Insurance

Top 20 Canadian Cities at Highest Risk During the 2024 Wildfire Season (CNW Group/My Choice Financial, Inc.)

In 2023, Canada experienced 5,475 wildfires, a figure that, while lower than in many previous years, belies the true severity of the fire season. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre the total area burned last year reached an unprecedented 17,347,637 hectares, marking the highest in 40 years. This staggering amount is over six times the average area burned annually over the past decade, highlighting the escalating intensity and scale of these events. British Columbia and Alberta bore the brunt of forest fires, with BC experiencing 2,840,754 hectares burned, a 2,004% increase over the previous year. Alberta also faced significant devastation, witnessing an 8,814% rise in burned area to 1,951,299 hectares.

Recognizing the critical need to address this growing threat and its implications for home insurance, MyChoice, a leading insurance comparison website, has initiated an internal case study to identify regions at heightened risk of wildfires in 2024.

To identify the cities most at risk of wildfires, we used two key metrics across the critical fire season months from May to September: the Forecast Severity Rating (FSR) and the Forecast Severity Anomaly (FSA) – both retrieved from the Monthly and Seasonal forecast by the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System. The FSR measures the predicted conditions for wildfire severity, scored from 1 to 5, where 1 represents low risk and 5 represents extreme risk. The FSA, on the other hand, compares the forecasted severity to the historical average, also scored from 1 to 5, where 1 indicates well below average conditions and 5 indicates well above average conditions. The overall risk score for each city was determined by combining the equally weighted average of the two metrics from May to September, providing a comprehensive assessment of wildfire risk.

Kamloops, BC, tops the list with a risk score of 9.4/10, indicating extreme wildfire risk due to its high Forecast Severity Rating and well above average Forecast Severity Anomaly. Other cities such as Saskatoon, SK (8.8), Regina, SK (8.6), and Kelowna, BC (8.6) also show significantly elevated wildfire risks, making them areas of concern for the upcoming season.

Most cities in Ontario remain relatively safe compared to the rest of Canada, with only a few northern cities, such as Timmins and Kenora, falling into the higher risk category for wildfires. It comes with no surprise that the home insurance prices are rising across the provinces most affected by wildfires. According to the most recent CPI data, Manitoba saw the highest year-over-year home insurance inflation in April 2024 at 14.2%, followed by Alberta at 11.4% and Saskatchewan at 11.0%. British Columbia experienced a 10.7% increase, while Ontario had the lowest rise at 7.5%. These inflation rates imply that there is a growing financial impact of increased wildfire risk on home insurance premiums.

“While we are seeing insurance companies in the U.S. pulling out of high-risk areas due to the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires, especially in California, the situation in Canada remains different,” said Aren Mirzaian, CEO of MyChoice. “In Canada, the insurance market has shown resilience, and we have not yet reached the point where insurers are withdrawing coverage. However, the unprecedented scale of wildfires last year is a clear warning signal. We need to be proactive in understanding the risks and ensuring that Canadian home insurance offerings are robust enough to provide adequate coverage in these challenging times.”

If you live in the areas identified in our study as high risk for wildfires, you should consider getting a comprehensive home insurance policy that includes coverage for fire damage, additional living expenses, and emergency evacuation. Make sure your policy provides replacement cost coverage, which will cover the cost of rebuilding your home to a similar size and quality, and includes contents insurance to replace your personal belongings.


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