Berkshire Hathaway Homesite Expands Use of Wildfire Risk Model

After establishing that the vendor’s Z-FIRE outperformed BHHC’s internally built wildfire risk model, the insurer expanded its use to 12 states.

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Having reported in July 2021 that it would experiment with’s (Oakland, Calif.) Z-FIRE wildfire risk model, The Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies (BHHC, San Francisco) has announced that it will expanded its use of the model to 12 states, according to a vendor statement. BHHC says it will use Z-FIRE to inform both underwriting and rating decisions. characterizes the expanded engagement as coming  at a critical time for the insurance industry. A recent report from Aon found there were three separate wildfires in 2021 alone that generated economic losses beyond $1 billion, underlining the growing importance of property-specific risk models for maintaining coverage in wildfire-prone states.

“Unfortunately, wildfires are impacting communities well beyond the western U.S., and managing that risk requires advanced models that help us truly understand wildfire risk at the individual-property level,” comments Brian Hall, VP, Products and Underwriting, Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies.

Hall notes that’s model outperformed BHHC’s homegrown wildfire risk model. “We started working with last year and saw an immediate opportunity to leverage granular wildfire insights that allow us to confidently write policies that commensurate with a property’s true risk,” he says.

Attila Toth, CEO, says that Z-FIRE not only provides regional and property-specific risk scores but also an explanation of the specific risk factors affecting the property. The application uses AI that has been trained on more than 1,500 wildfire events across more than 20 years of historical loss data, it considers property-level features that influence risk, according to the vendor. The vendor adds that topography, historical climate data and critical factors extracted from high-resolution imagery such as building materials and surrounding vegetation in multiple defensible spaces are taken into account. The result is that insurers are empowered with a true property-level risk score that effectively splits risk, while providing the flexibility to recognize mitigation efforts by homeowners and their respective communities, the vendor asserts.

“The Berkshire Hathaway Homestate Companies have always been known for taking a progressive, innovative approach to risk management, and as wildfires continue to reach new geographies we commend them for being proactive with their approach to rating and underwriting around wildfire risk,” says Attila Toth, Founder & CEO, “The broad adoption of Z-FIRE, which is now used in rating and underwriting across the entire Western U.S., is a critical piece of hardening the insurance industry and their customers to defend against climate risks.”

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Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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