These Maxar satellite images show a neighborhood in Paradise Pines, California, before (left), during (shortwave infrared image in the middle), and after (right) the 2018 Camp Fire.

Thanks to satellite imagery and advances in machine learning technology, insurers now have access to predictive insights for nearly all U.S. communities that are regularly threatened by wildfires.

The number and intensity of yearly wildfires have continued to increase in the U.S. over the last decade, destroying property and upending lives. In 2021, 58,733 fires burned more than 7 million acres in the U.S., with many of the most intense blazes located in the naturally wooded areas of northern California. Wildfires in this area contributed to the majority of the 3,629 damaged or destroyed structures in the state.

In addition to existing rural communities, homes and businesses have continued to sprawl into the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) as growing populations expand metropolitan areas further away from urban centers. In a late 2020 report, we found that over 18,000 new homes in California, Utah and Colorado had been constructed in the highest-risk and most vegetation-dense fire risk zones over the previous decade. That number will likely continue to increase.

For insurers and real estate stakeholders, wildfire season has become a costly one. It was estimated that the 2020 wildfire season collectively cost insurers between $7 billion and $13 billion, with the extremely vulnerable communities in northern California accounting for $5 billion to $7 billion of that total.

Geospatial analytics and wildfire risk

CAPE Analytics has pioneered the creation of property analytics through the use of computer vision, machine learning and geospatial imagery. CAPE extracts structured data from imagery and provides instant, accurate and predictive property intelligence for the insurance and real estate industries.

Initially focused on roof condition and other property condition attributes that are predictive of insurance loss, CAPE has leveraged its technologies into a Wildfire Intelligence suite that brings together cutting-edge geospatial AI with dozens of other wildfire-relevant data sources.

While many wildfire risk solutions exist, CAPE’s Wildfire Intelligence is the first to utilize geospatial imagery, like that provided by Maxar’s SecureWatch platform, to focus on critical vulnerability aspects at the individual property level. CAPE integrates SecureWatch into Wildfire Intelligence via an API, which smoothly brings the latest Maxar imagery into CAPE’s environment for analysis. Maxar’s high-resolution imagery enables CAPE to see and understand property characteristics in great detail.

CAPE’s Wildfire Intelligence suite helps insurers and homeowners understand a property’s wildfire risk, vulnerability and the impact of mitigation efforts on that property.

CAPE identifies specific risk factors like vegetation clearance, roof construction and material, and proximity to surrounding structures, then bundles these into easy-to-use and transparent risk scores. CAPE AI can also predict the possible risk reduction if a homeowner were to remove vegetation from the areas closest to their home, giving them a concrete understanding of how they can mitigate damage to their home in the event of a wildfire.

Thanks to a partnership with Maxar and its high-resolution satellite imagery, CAPE can now provide this information for nearly every home in the United States.

High-resolution imagery and AI: complete wildfire coverage

With Maxar’s high-resolution satellite imagery offering geographic coverage of the U.S., CAPE can provide insurance carriers and homeowners in rural and remote regions the ability to assess and understand the wildfire risk, vulnerability and mitigation potential of their insured properties.

This information is critical, especially to homeowners. In a recent study, CAPE found that 47% of properties that had a “high” or “very high” wildfire risk score in California had the potential to reduce their vulnerability with straightforward vegetation mitigation practices. As climate change continues to increase the severity of these yearly wildfires, creative solutions using the latest in cutting-edge technology will be key to helping society proactively protect homes and lives.

Assess wildfire risk with 21st century technology

Combined with Maxar’s satellite imagery, CAPE Analytics’ AI and machine learning provide a modern solution to an increasing climate threat. Check out how CAPE Wildfire Intelligence’s transparent analytics inform carriers and homeowners about a property’s wildfire risk, vulnerability and mitigation potential.

Quantify risk

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