As Wildfire Disasters Increase, Some Californians Find They Can't Renew Their Homeowners Insurance

Jan 5, 2018

A growing number of Californians living in areas considered "high fire risk" are finding their insurance companies won't renew their homeowners insurance policy. 

Over the past couple years, John McEldowney with Placer County's Office of Emergency Services has heard from a growing number of residents who aren't able to renew their insurance.

"We often get phone calls from residents in the mountainous, wooded areas of the county, basically the high-fire danger areas," McEldowney said.

After wildfires in Lake, Amador and Calaveras counties in 2015, the number of homeowners in high fire-risk counties who were unable to renew their homeowners insurance increased 15 percent, according to a new report  from the California Department of Insurance.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says we can expect the problem to expand as insurers re-assess fire risk in the wake of the 2017 wildfires.

"Thousands of homes in areas that were thought to be at lower risk of fire were completely destroyed by fire," Jones said. "And that will, in all likelihood, have an impact in those areas where insurance availability has not traditionally be as much of a challenge." 

Democratic State Senator Ricardo Lara, who is running for Insurance Commissioner, introduced legislation that would require insurance companies to get approval from state regulators before reducing policy offerings in high fire-risk areas.

A lobbyist representing several major insurance companies in California did not respond to a request for comment.

Homeowners who can't find insurance can get fire coverage through a state program called the California FAIR Plan.

The Northern California wildfires in October cost insurers more than $9 billion dollars.

The cost of the Thomas Fire in Southern California has yet to be determined. It is the biggest wildfire in California history.

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