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California wildfires on Sept. 9.

California wildfires on Sept. 9.

Source: NASA
The New Economy

Wildfires Are Close to Torching the Insurance Industry in California

Fire science keeps getting better, but the fires themselves are getting much, much worse.

Dave Sapsis went to bed on Sunday, Aug. 16, with a sense of foreboding. As the head of risk mapping at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, he’d seen the readouts from the agency’s high-precision weather forecasting system showing broad bands of clouds that could produce lightning without rain. After a wet spring, the state had spent the summer months baking under record-high temperatures, turning all those spring shoots into dry tinder.

Sapsis has been studying California wildfires for three decades. He knew what was coming next.