Wildfire Preparedness: Keeping a Hotel Wildfire Ready
By John Welty President, SUITELIFE Underwriting Managers, Ryan Specialty Group | September 2019
There are three essential elements needed to create a wildfire: oxygen, fuel such as dry vegetation and a heat source. Only 10 percent of wildfires are started by weather events. That means that we humans are the direct or indirect cause of 90 percent of wildfires.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 129,582 wildfires took place between 2017 and 2018, scorching approximately 18.8 million acres of US land. These disasters proved costly, with over $2 billion spent in 2017 fighting wildfires and around $3.1 billion spent in 2018, per the National Fire Information Counsel. The worst of the wildfires last year, the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire in Northern California, combined to burn over 232,000 acres of land.
Wildfires have ravaged the country over the last few years, and this does not appear to be changing anytime soon as extreme weather conditions have contributed to longer fire seasons in North America. Although we are most familiar with California wildfires, catastrophic events are happening in every state. California accounted for just 20 percent of the acres burned in 2018. The whole country is at risk, which is why it has become crucial that all business professionals, including hoteliers, are prepared.
The Camp Fire of 2018 stands as an example of the dangers of wildfire unpreparedness. As 19,000 buildings burned to the ground and more than 85 people died, this was one of the most destructive and deadly wildfires in California history. During the fire, USA Today requested the evacuation plans of the 27 communities that were at greatest risk from the fire. They found that fewer than one in four communities actually had evacuation plans ready for the general public. Consequently, those areas were not sufficiently prepared when the fires struck, and the damages were vast.
In fact, recent wildfires forced several hotels to shut down. For example, the Woolsey and Wood Fires in 2017 forced area hotels, including the Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village and the Hilton Agoura Hills to close. Wildfires in Sonoma in 2017 were particularly devastating, as the Hilton Sonoma caught fire and was forced to temporarily shut down. The last few years have yielded many cases such as these, making a strong wildfire preparedness plan all the more important.
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