WeatherFire Watch


Growing insurance claims from wildfires making it harder for some Californians to get coverage

Posted at 6:33 PM, May 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-08 21:51:39-04

Local firefighters are getting ahead of fire season by starting training efforts just as a new report reveals insurance claims for damages from the state’s deadly November wildfires have topped $12 billion.

The destruction is now impacting homeowners who are trying to get insured.

Some say insurance companies are either raising their prices or denying their policies all together due to the risk of not getting enough money to pay claims.

“So you look at maybe an average homeowners policy of $1,000 or $2,000 a year over 10 years – they’re gonna spend $10,000 or $20,000 but if the home burns down it may cost one million dollars to rebuild the home, make it up to building code standards, replacing all the contents and pay for the cost of the person’s additional living expenses over a two or three year time,” explained Janet Ruiz, Spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute.

The Institute recommends discussing your options with a local insurance broker.

“So they already are familiar with your area, they are more familiar with the risks you face in that particular area and they would know which companies are still writing insurance in that area,” Ruiz said.

“In general, many factors are considered when underwriting a new homeowners insurance policy,” explained Jordi Ortega, Public Affairs Specialist for State Farm. “State Farm considers factors such as the location of the property relative to natural hazards, condition of the property, and the customer’s past claim activity and history. To keep our promises to all of our homeowner customers, we must find the appropriate balance between our exposure to loss, the resources available to maintain a quality level of service, and our ability to meet our financial obligations to pay claims. Our customers are our top priority, and we want to be able to meet their needs.”

On Wednesday, firefighters from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties continued their preparation for this upcoming wildfire season.

“We take lessons learned from previous incidents as well as anticipated challenges for the next fire season and we drill on it. We train on it and we educate ourselves,” explained Daniel Bertucelli, Santa Barbara County Fire Department Public Information Officer.

Firefighters took part in three different drills that included structure defense, hose deployment skills and refilling helicopters with water.

“It’s kind of a dance between ground resources and air resources so it’s very valuable to train on that because as we know, these helicopters provide a lot of good help in fighting a lot of these fires,” Bertucelli said.

This week is Wildfire Preparedness Week. Fire departments across the Central Coast are reminding people about the importance of defensible space and maintaining a “go bag” in case of evacuations.

2017 was previously the most expensive year of insurance claims from wildfires at more than $11 billion.