Where Will the Next Mega-Wildfires Occur?

Athena Intelligence
4 min readJun 24, 2023

Athena’s Voice of the Acre® provides unique insights to anticipate wildfires. A conditional, geospatial, terrain data artificial intelligence system, the Voice of the Acre® already knows the characteristics, or the digital signature, of the land that will burn, albeit differently in different regions. (That is, a mega-wildfire in New Mexico behaves differently than a wildfire in Northern California, and this is already taken into account in the data Athena provides to catastrophe modelers.)

The most common question I, as founder of Athena Intelligence, am asked is: How is Athena’s score different from other wildfire risk scores used by insurers?

It is too easy for me to get into a discussion of terrain-based data vs. satellite-based data, stochastic models, and weather-based cat models vs. agricultural harvest models. I tend to forget that what is really being asked differs by the source. The right answer depends upon the business need of the asker.

Regardless of the wording of the question, the typical property insurance carrier’s real question is: “Is the wildfire risk and subsequent damage to this property low enough to make it insurable?”

It appears (to many observers, including ourselves) that many of the competitors’ risk scores provide a variety of ways of saying No. There are so many No’s that the largest carriers, with all their resources for analytics and experience seemingly can’t find enough “Yes” responses to make their business work in California. Everyone in California has heard the news about Allstate, State Farm, Farmers and Nationwide deciding not to underwrite additional properties. (The impact is close to one million home purchases annually.)

Existing risk scores have failed to deliver consistent confidence in risk assessment for underwriting guidelines. Consequently, carriers often default to high-risk classifications, resulting in property owners being declined coverage. This situation calls for a new approach that not only accurately assesses risk but also fosters profitability for carriers.

Recently Athena has been conducting demonstrations that shed light on the limitations of traditional risk scores. In these demos, we examined properties that had been declined coverage based on wildfire risk scores. Surprisingly, between 30% and 50% of these properties, categorized as Green by Athena, had a combined conditional and probability risk of less than 2% of being involved in a wildfire. (See our articles: Profitably Underwriting Properties with Wildfire Exposure and Overview of Athena’s Wildfire Model.)

To illustrate the effectiveness of Athena’s risk assessment, we invite you to explore our demonstration dashboard on Tableau. In these sheets, we share the analysis of nearly 300 properties that were declined coverage based on a wildfire risk score.

Astonishingly, 54% of them were classified as Green by the Voice of the Acre®. The dashboard also provides detailed insights into the specific combinations of Green profiles and their occurrence within and around wildfire perimeters across California from 2018 to 2022.

Risk Score vs Voice of the Acre Comparison | Tableau

The Tableau Dashboard has 4 sheets. The first shows a comparison (shown above) of properties denied by the use of another risk score vs. the same properties using Athena’s Voice of the Acre®. The second sheet gives you an opportunity to look at any of these properties and see Athena’s scoring vs the alternative risk score. The third sheet allows you to surf around and look at these properties by county and year. The idea is for you to see for yourself if Athena’s risk score makes sense given the history of properties with this digital signature.

The final sheet shows the estimated financial impact of declining those green properties.

Spoiler alert: it was 146 properties with just under $16 million in premium.

Our findings reveal significant potential for carriers to provide insurance coverage in a reasonable and profitable manner, catering to both residential and commercial property markets in California.

In mid-June, Athena just updated and fully profiled four states: CA, AZ, CO, and WA. Each new state takes about a day, so contact us for our current list of states. This presents a prime opportunity for carriers to gain a competitive advantage and meet the evolving needs of the market.

Care to learn more? Set up a demonstration here: Select a Date & Time — Calendly

Follow Athena here or follow me, David Sypnieski, on LinkedIn to be updated as more information is shared.

Athena is a next generation InsurTech data vendor which produces synthetic data. The earth’s essential data is refined to make it easy for enterprises to use environmental information for future contracts, proprietary business decisions and risk management.

David Sypnieski has been working in geospatial and conditional terrain data for agriculture for more than a decade. As founder of Athena Intelligence, this perspective is wildfires are a harvest event, they can only occur where fuel and conditions for fire ignition and spread coincide.

Contact us at Info@Project-Athena.com or (AthenaIntel.io)

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Athena Intelligence

Athena Intelligence weaves vast amounts of disaggregated environmental data. Drop us a line (Info@Project-Athena.com), or visit www.athenaintel.io