Fort McMurray wildfire: study pegs cost of lost buildings, income and environmental damage at $8.9B

18 January 2017

published by http://globalnews.ca


Canada —   EDITOR’S NOTE: The original Canadian Press article stated Alam’s cost estimate was nearly $10 billion. The researcher provided updated information that downgrades that number to almost $8.9 billion.

EDMONTON – A new study says the total costs of the Fort McMurray fire – including environmental losses – is nearly $9 billion.

It’s the first figure to combine the cost of destroyed buildings and infrastructure with lost income and profits.

It also adds in the toll on the environment, including lost timber and ecosystem damage.

READ MORE: Gallery: Video, pictures of Fort McMurray wildfire damage media tour

MacEwan University economics professor Rafat Alam says the final bill for the mental and physical health costs are likely to push that total even higher.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada previously said the fire was the costliest disaster for insurers in Canadian history. It estimated the insured damage caused by the fire would reach $3.7 billion, making it the most expensive disaster for insurers in the country’s history.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray wildfire: $3.6B in damage, says Insurance Bureau of Canada

Before 2016, the costliest insured disaster in Canadian history was the Quebec ice storm of 1998, which forced insurers to pay out $1.9 billion in constant 2014 dollars, according to a 2015 IBC annual report.

The Alberta floods of 2013 were the second costliest, resulting in $1.8 billion in insured damage.

The Fort McMurray blaze destroyed 1,800 single-family homes and numerous other structures and forced the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people last May.

As for the region’s biggest economic driver, analysts say lost oilsands production from the Fort McMurray wildfires could top 30 million barrels and cost the industry upwards of $1.4 billion.

READ MORE: RCMP say Fort McMurray wildfire likely ‘result of human activity,’ investigate if blaze was criminal

Some of the largest oilsands producers in the province were forced to shut down or curtail operations due to the May wildfire. Damage to oilsands projects was minimal but analysts say restarting operations took longer than expected.