CLAIMS LOSSES FROM CALIFORNIA’S WILDFIRES TOP $3 BILLION; STATE SAYS SOME INSURERS MAY EXIT

Insured losses from last month’s wildfire disaster in Northern California topped $3.3 billion, the state Department of Insurance said Tuesday.

The claims for insured losses on residences, businesses and vehicles represents a three-fold jump from figures released two weeks by the state agency. Data was based on losses as reported to the state by 15 major insurers.

“Behind each and every one of these claims, and behind the over $3 billion in insured losses claims, are ordinary people,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a call with reporters. “Tens of thousands lost everything in what has proven to be the deadliest and one of the costliest set of wildfires in our state’s history.”

Jones also said there’s a chance insurance companies now may take a second look at areas once considered low wildfire risk and be hesitant to issue policies given the devastation seen in last month’s deadly fire disaster.

“We may also see, unfortunately, insurance companies updating their models of risk associated with these fires,” he said. “And that may mean in some cases some insurers will decide to write less insurance in some areas that had traditionally had been viewed as lower risk.”

The fires were in at least eight Northern California counties of the state.

Overall, residential insured losses for all the fires totalled just over $3.1 billion and commercial losses represented nearly $137 million. Auto losses exceeded $28 million and farm/agriculture losses from the fires exceeded $4.5 million, with most of it in Sonoma County but also some losses in Napa County.

The wine country wildfires damaged or destroyed more than 14,700 homes, 728 businesses, and more than 3,600 private cars, commercial vehicles, farm equipment and watercraft.

At least 43 people died as a result of the devastating fires, including a firefighter.

 

The series of wildfires, which started the evening of Oct. 8, destroyed entire neighbourhoods in the city of Santa Rosa. At least 5 percent of the housing stock in Sonoma County was destroyed in the fires.

The state official said the policy change may be needed since California continues “to develop in areas where there’s significant change of fire. We continue not to have adequate local fire protection resources to fight those fires and we shift those costs onto Cal Fire and the state.

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