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The wildfire that devastated Fort McMurray in 2016 has already been classified as the costliest disaster in Canadian history, and with the full-year numbers in, it's also helped fuel another record.

Fort McMurray fire costs helped set staggering new record


Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Friday, January 6, 2017, 7:34 PM - The wildfire that devastated Fort McMurray in 2016 has already been classified as the costliest disaster in Canadian history, and with the full-year numbers now tabulated, it's also helped fuel another record.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada said Friday the wildfire, which destroyed more than 2,000 structures in the city and forced more than 80,000 people to flee to safety, pushed 2016's total insured damage costs up to $4.9 billion. 

That's significantly higher than the last record of $3.2 billion, set in 2013. The IBC says the fires alone accounted for $3.7 billion in 2016, more than all of 2013's combined total and more than twice the previous record, 2013's Calgary floods.

RELATED: Fort McMurray wildfire hotspots still smouldering

In a Friday press release, the IBC tied the new milestone directly to due to climate change, which the bureau says has been worsening the impact of severe weather events.

"The record damage reported in 2016 is part of an upward trend that shows no signs of stopping," Don Forgeron, the IBC's president and CEO said. "That is why Canada's property and casualty insurance industry is calling on governments across the country to come together and implement expansive climate policies that will better prepare Canadians and their communities for when disasters strike."

The IBC says the global economic hit from natural disasters is now five times higher than in the 1980s. Correspondingly, the IBC reports annual Canadian federal disaster response spending jumped from $40 million in the 1970s up to an annual average of $600 million in the first six years of the 2010s. In 2013, Ottawa's relief spending hit $1.4 billion thanks to flood disasters in Ontario and Alberta.

"Addressing current gaps in public policy and consumer protection can only be possible if industry and government work together in the areas of mitigation, adaptation and emergency management – all of which form the basis of a comprehensive climate strategy," Forgeron said. "Further to that, our industry will continue to press for a National Flood Program to make our communities stronger, safer, and more resilient when severe weather happens."

SOURCE: Insurance Bureau of Canada

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