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Abstract. Topography, weather, and fuels are known factors driving fire behavior, but the degree to which each contributes to the spatial pattern of fire severity under different conditions remains poorly understood. The variability in severity within the boundaries of the 2006 wildfires that burned in the Klamath Mountains, northern California, along with data on burn conditions and new analytical tools, presented an opportunity to evaluate factors influencing fire severity under burning conditions representative of those where management of wildfire for resource benefit is most likely. Fire severity was estimated as the percent change in canopy cover (0–100%) classified from the Relativized differenced Normalized Burn Ratio (RdNBR), and spatial data layers were compiled to determine strength of associations with topography, weather, and variables directly or indirectly linked to fuels, such as vegetation type, number of previous fires, and time since last fire. Detailed fire progressions were used to estimate weather (e.g., temperature, relative humidity, temperature inversions, and solar radiation) at the time of burning. A generalized additive regression model with random effects and an additional spatial term to account for autocorrelation between adjacent locations was fitted to fire severity. In this fire year characterized by the relative absence of extreme fire weather, topographical complexity most strongly influenced severity. Upper- and mid-slopes tended to burn at higher fire severity than lower-slopes. East- and southeast-facing aspects tended to burn at higher severity than other aspects. Vegetation type and fire history were also important predictors of fire severity. Shrub vegetation was more likely to burn at higher severity than mixed hardwood/conifer or hardwood vegetation. As expected, fire severity was positively associated with time since previous fire, but the relationship was non-linear. Of the weather variables analyzed, temperature inversions, common in the complex topography of the Klamath Mountains, showed the strongest association with fire severity. Inversions trapped smoke and had a dampening effect on severity within the landscape underneath the inversion. Understanding the spatial controls on mixed-severity fires allows managers to better plan for future wildfires and aide in the decision making when managing lightning ignitions for resource benefit might be appropriate.

Abstract

Topography, weather, and fuels are known factors driving fire behavior, but the degree towhich each contributes to the spatial pattern of fire severity under different conditions remains poorlyunderstood. The variability in severity within the boundaries of the 2006 wildfires that burned in theKlamath Mountains, northern California, along with data on burn conditions and new analytical tools, presentedan opportunity to evaluate factors influencing fire severity under burning conditions representativeof those where management of wildfire for resource benefit is most likely. Fire severity was estimated asthe percent change in canopy cover (0–100%) classified from the Relativized differenced Normalized BurnRatio (RdNBR), and spatial data layers were compiled to determine strength of associations with topography,weather, and variables directly or indirectly linked to fuels, such as vegetation type, number of previousfires, and time since last fire. Detailed fire progressions were used to estimate weather (e.g.,temperature, relative humidity, temperature inversions, and solar radiation) at the time of burning. A generalizedadditive regression model with random effects and an additional spatial term to account for autocorrelationbetween adjacent locations was fitted to fire severity. In this fire year characterized by therelative absence of extreme fire weather, topographical complexity most strongly influenced severity.Upper- and mid-slopes tended to burn at higher fire severity than lower-slopes. East- and southeast-facingaspects tended to burn at higher severity than other aspects. Vegetation type and fire history were alsoimportant predictors of fire severity. Shrub vegetation was more likely to burn at higher severity thanmixed hardwood/conifer or hardwood vegetation. As expected, fire severity was positively associated withtime since previous fire, but the relationship was non-linear. Of the weather variables analyzed, temperatureinversions, common in the complex topography of the Klamath Mountains, showed the strongestassociation with fire severity. Inversions trapped smoke and had a dampening effect on severity within thelandscape underneath the inversion. Understanding the spatial controls on mixed-severity fires allowsmanagers to better plan for future wildfires and aide in the decision making when managing lightningignitions for resource benefit might be appropriate.

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By Charles C. Roberts, Jr. Ph. D., P.E.

Event data recorders are typically electronic devices that store information received from sensors connected to the device.  An event data recorder is often referred to as a “black box,” a familiar recording device found on many large passenger aircraft. Event data recorders are now being designed into many other products to aid in diagnosing problems that may arise with usage of the product.  Automobiles, electronic panels, alarm systems and some appliances are equipped with event data recorders.  When a loss occurs, it is becoming more likely that some evidentiary information concerning the loss will be recorded on some device.  Typical recorded data may be the time a heat sensor activated in a fire alarm panel, the number of loads handled by a clothes dryer, or the speed of an automobile prior to a collision.  The following three examples illustrate the type of data retained in “black boxes” and their significance.  It should be noted that this article deals with numerical data retained and not visual data retained from the prolific surveillance camera.

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Abstract

Grilling has become part of many celebrations and regular meals. Unfortunately, grilling also causes fires and burns. National estimates of reported fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey show that in 2009-2013, grills, hibachis or barbecues were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires per year, including an average of 3,900 structure fires and 5,100 outside or unclassified fires. These 8,900 fires caused annual averages of 10 civilian deaths, 160 reported civilian injuries, and $118 million in direct property damage. Almost all of the losses resulted from structure fires. Five out of six grills involved in reported fires were fueled by gas. The leading causes of grill fires were a failure to clean, having the grill too close to something that could catch fire and leaving the grill unattended. Leaks or breaks were primarily a problem with gas grills. In 2014, 8,700 thermal burns involving grills were seen in hospital emergency departments. Roughly three out of five thermal burns were non-fire burns, typically caused by contact with the grill or its contents. Children under five accounted for one-third of the contact burns involving grills.

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Selecting Among Engineer Experts (aka, What Kind of Expert Do I need for This Loss?) JH Nolt June 29, 2017
Do you want your Proctologist doing your Neuro-surgery? They are both licensed MDs aren't they?
Do you want your Wills and Trusts Attorney working on your Subrogation case? They are both licensed Attorneys aren't they?
Do you want your Workman's Comp adjuster handling your Large Property Liability loss? Adjusters are all licensed adjusters aren't they?
Similar concerns exist amont the various engineering disciplines and licenses. They are all forensic engineers aren't they?
In a word - No, No, No and No.

While there are over 10,000 different types of experts, in California there are eighteen types of licensed engineers.  

The three main types are:
  • Civil
  • Electrical
  • Mechanical

 

The others are:

  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Control System Engineer
  • Corrosion Engineer
  • Fire Protection Engineer
  • Industrial Engineer
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Metallurgical Engineer
  • Nuclear Engineer
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Quality Engineer
  • Safety Engineer
  • Soils (Gotechnical) Engineer
  • Structural Engineer
  • Traffic Engineer

 

 

 

 

 

To obtain any of these licenses, there are specific education, experience, expertise, examination and professional peer recommendation requirements that are reviewed and approved (or rejected) by technical peers before the license is granted.

The following pages try to help you understand the differences amount the engineer types so you make better expert selections at the beginning of your loss investigation.  At the end, website addresses are provided so you can check an engineering expert for proper licensure.

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From Out of the Abyss...

This week’s article from the past is titled Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted and was written by Benjamin Horton, CPCU, who was President of the National Adjuster Traing School in Louisville, Kentucky..  It is taken from the Decembe 1968 Vol. XVI No.5 issue.

Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted 

A phase-out of environmentally damaging chemicals means that most refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners may soon be using flammable refrigerants.

BY JESSE ROMAN

 

Like a suitor spurned over and over in love, the refrigeration and air conditioning industries can’t seem to find a good partner. While the mechanics of these indispensible technologies have been stable for decades, the substances that circulate through them absorbing heat and cooling the air—aptly named refrigerants—keep finding ways to foul things up.

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Practical Approaches for Recouping Good Faith Payments

Larry-Arnold-article

by: Larry Arnold

Faced with growing losses, insurance companies are focusing on fraud management and implementing risk mitigation controls, while at the same time remaining cognizant of their duty of good faith to policyholders.  So what happens when an insurer makes good faith payments on legitimate elements of an insurance claim but subsequently uncovers fraud in other elements of the claim?  Is the insurer entitled to recover all monies paid as part of the claim?  Or only the amount paid in reliance on the insured's misrepresentations?

Previously, there was no clear answer.  It was safe to assume that an insurer could recover monies paid on a claim under the right circumstances – the difficulty occurred when trying to recover payments made prior to the established fraud date.  For example, in California, the insurance code states, “If a representation is false in a material point, whether affirmative or promissory, the injured party is entitled to rescind the contract from the time the representation becomes false.”

Recent trial court rulings in favor of insurance companies, however, are changing the claims landscape.  These rulings will impact the way insurance companies handle genuine claims that are subsequently tainted by fraud, encouraging them to be proactive in recouping good faith payments.

Steps for Recouping

What options do insurance companies have to recoup these payments?  There are several avenues available.

Deny the Claim. When the SIU has completed a claims investigation and determined that an insured has breached the policy by materially misrepresenting facts, the claim can be denied – even the legitimate part.  Appropriate cases should be referred to law enforcement for prosecution.  In addition, the insured has a duty to present and prove the merits of the claim.  Failure to cooperate with insurance company representatives can independently result in denial of the claim.  This includes an examination under oath (EUO), which plays a key role in obtaining information.  Typically, the named insured (or others, as dictated by the policy) is required to submit to an EUO as a precondition for claims settlement.  Failure to do so can result in denial of the claim.

Void the Policy. An insurer may void or cancel its policy in the event of material misrepresentation or concealment of facts by the insured.  This includes fraudulent claims.

Litigation. If a policy is voided for fraudulent claims, insurers must then decide whether to sue the insured to recoup payments - even legitimate ones.  One advantage with litigation is that it allows for pretrial discovery process, including depositions and the ability to subpoena documents previously unavailable during the claims process.

A Case in Point

A recent case illustrates that insurance companies are entitled to recoup good faith payments when fraud is uncovered.  Here is some background on the case.

An insurer issued a fire insurance policy to the owner of a dry cleaning business located in Southern California.  A fire destroyed the business, so the owner submitted claims for replacement equipment, debris removal, damage to customer goods and loss of business income.  Based on these claims, the insurance company paid the owner $527,000.

However, during the insurance company’s investigation of additional claims, a forensic accountant uncovered inconsistencies in a laundry services contract submitted as part of the owner’s claim for loss of business income.  As a result, the owner was asked to sit for an EUO.  The owner declined and withdrew his pending claim.  The insurer then declined the claim, rescinded the policy and sued the business owner to recoup all loss payments.

At trial, evidence and witness testimony was presented that showed the owner had falsified the laundry contract and also inflated amounts paid for replacement equipment, debris removal, and payroll, among other items. Attorneys argued that the insurer was entitled to full recovery (payments made before the fraud occurred) for several novel reasons, including:

  • The outcome in Perovich v. Glen Falls Insurance Co. (9th Cir. 1968), where the court ruled that an insurer “may recover money paid in reasonable reliance on its insured’s fraudulent claim.”  The court held that the insurer was entitled to recover the full payment made under the policy.
  • Compelling the insured to return only a portion of the money would circumvent the purpose of the fraud statutes and create bad public policy.  The insured’s fear of losing even the legitimate claim payments should deter him from committing fraud.  An insured who knew he could recover the “honest” claims would be incentivized to calculate the risk of getting caught into his claims submission, determining that some things are worth lying about.

Though portions of the claim were legitimate, the judge ruled in favor of the insurer and its decision to rescind the fire insurance policy.  The insured was ordered to repay $452,064, which represented all payments less monies paid to customers who lost clothing in the fire and the policy premium.

Implications for Insurers

This decision is important as it reinforces the rights of insurance companies not only to decline a claim when fraud is uncovered but also to rescind a policy and sue the insured to collect good faith payments.  Previously, the law was not clear about what happens to monies paid as part of a legitimate claim, when fraud is discovered in a separate area.  It is now clear that fraud in part of a claim translates to fraud in the entire claim.

Claims managers should have an open discussion with claims adjusters and SIU team members, with the goal of establishing a claims review protocol that outlines what to look for and what to do if fraud is suspected.  This is critical, as claim adjusters are the first line of defense against fraud.  Once fraud is uncovered, insurance companies should not hesitate to consult with an attorney and pursue the insured in order to recover monies already paid.  In the end, both insurance companies and policyholders will benefit by reducing the high cost of fraud.

Larry M. Arnold, P.C., is a senior partner at Cummins & White, LLP.  He can be reached at (949) 852-1800, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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