In California, there seems to be no end to fire season. And no end to the destruction that wildfires bring up and down the state.
Each year, wildfires in California get larger and more destructive than previous seasons'. In 2017, since the start of the Fire Siege on October 8, CAL FIRE responded to 250 wildfires in California. At its peak,11,000 firefighters battled 21 major wildfires that forced 100,000 people to evacuate, destroyed an estimated 8,400 homes and businesses, destroyed over 245,000 acres, and tragically took the lives of 42 people. CALFIRE announced that the Tubbs Fire alone had broken the record as the most destructive wildfire in California’s history.
The record didn't last long.
In August of 2018, wtih over 600,000 acres burned and tens of thousands of Californians evacuated from their homes, firefighters battled 17 large fires simultaneously, including the largest in State's recorded history. The Mendocino Complex Fire has officially become the largest California wildfire in history, surpassing the Thomas and Tubbs fires that ravaged the state the year before.
13,000 Californian firefighters have been deployed to battle the blazes, and they're not alone. 2,300 members of the National Guard have joined their efforts, aided by firefighters and equipment from 17 other states and even Australia and New Zealand.
CA Wildfire Facts
Wildfires can quickly destroy acres of land, neighborhoods, homes, and businesses in the blink of an eye. If you live in California, there’s a very good chance you or someone you know is at risk for wildfires.
- 4.5 million homes across the U.S. are at high-risk for wildfires.
- 2 million at risk homes are in California, the state most associated with wildfires.
- 8 of the 10 most costly wildfires in the U.S. have occurred in CA.
How Dangerous are Wildfires?
Did you know that wildfires are more dangerous than other fires? Homes burned during wildfires frequently catch fire from live embers blown by the wind. Homes that are in close proximity to one another (15 feet apart or closer) can cause wildfires to spread rapidly. Combustible materials, such as wood, plastic, and foliage that are often found around homes can increase the chance of it going up in flames.
Are You Prepared for a Fire?
Over 100,000 California residents were evacuated during the October wildfire siege. These people learned first hand: in a wildfire situation, you may have just minutes to gather your family and get out of your house - possibly for good.
These five steps will help you be prepared for a fire.
- Have an evacuation plan in place. Know where you will go if you need to evacuate, and how you will reunite if separated from family.
- Know what to take. In addition to an emergency supply kit, you may need clothing, pillows, bedding, personal hygiene items, medications, and pet supplies.
- Create a home inventory. A detailed home inventory can help with the insurance process in the event of a fire.
- Don’t forget important documents. Be sure your most important documents - insurance policies, birth/ marriage certificates, social security cards, driver’s license, financial accounts, passports, and recent tax returns - can be taken with you in a moment’s notice.
- Plan for your pets. Include them in your emergency planning. Be sure they are wearing properly fitting collars with tags. Include photos of your pets with medical records and store with other important documents.
What to do if a Wildfire Strikes
If you’re instructed to evacuate, don’t delay; leave as soon as fire officials recommend. Evacuating early not only ensures your own safety, it also helps keep roads clear so firefighters and emergency vehicles can do their jobs.
If you have time before you go:
- Turn on your lights to make your home more visible.
- Turn off gas and appliances before you evacuate.
- Cover up in long sleeves and pants to protect against heat and flying embers. Wear sensible, sturdy shoes.
- Secure your home before you leave: shut windows and lock doors.
- Take your evacuation bag and emergency supplies with you.
- Locate your pets and take with you whenever possible.
- Follow your family evacuation plan.
What to do After a Fire
Some homes are completely destroyed by wildfires, while others may still be standing after a fire is out. Here’s what to do in the minutes, days, and weeks following a fire.
- Contact your local disaster relief service, such as the American Red Cross, if you need someplace to stay, food, water, or medicine.
- Contact your insurance company right away.
- If your home is still intact, contact the fire department and ask if it’s safe to return.
- Ask the fire department if your utilities (electric, gas, water) are safe to use. Do not turn them on yourself.
- Be alert for downed power lines or other hazards.
- Contact your landlord or mortgage company about the fire.
- Save all your receipts for any money you spend; they may be needed by your insurance company or to prove losses claimed on a tax return.
California Wildfires Cost Insurers Big. Could Homeowners Pay the Price?
The October wildfires in Northern California could cost insurers an estimated $4.6 - 6 billion. Most of the damage will fall to homeowners and commercial property coverage; both policies typically cover fire damage to homes and businesses.
Insurers who cover Northern California counties will bear the brunt of these losses. Will the rest of us see rising rates as a result?
The insurance industry maintains that premiums and rates won’t rise for all Californians because of the wildfires. In fact, the California Department of Insurance and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones have been turning down requests for insurance rate hikes since 2011.
But just because the insurance industry as a whole won’t be hiking up rates statewide to compensate for the losses, CA wildfires can still cost homeowners in other ways.
If you live in a high-risk wildfire area, you may have already experienced some of these yourself.
According to the CA Department of Insurance, after a residential homeowners’ policy has been in effect for 60 days it can only be canceled for limited reasons which include; nonpayment of premium, fraud, material misrepresentation, or physical changes in the insured property that increase insured hazards.
A non-renewal, on the other hand, is pretty much at the discretion of the insurer.
Which means you may find yourself on the receiving end of a non-renewal notice if you reside in a high-risk area.
Failure to find coverage
High-risk properties could have trouble finding coverage after a non-renewal. If you can’t get coverage from private insurers, you may have to turn to the secondary market - where rates could be significantly higher than you’re used to paying. Already, insurers are reacting to the California wildfires by not writing new homeowners’ policies altogether, or by getting extremely choosy about the policies they will write.
Aegis finds Coverage for High-risk Homes
Aegis is located in the Tahoe/ Truckee area of Northern California, where many homes are considered high-risk. When other insurance companies say no, Aegis refuses to leave homes and families unprotected. If you are dealing with a non-renewal, can’t get homeowners’ coverage, or feel that your homeowners’ insurance premiums are too high, let us help you protect your home and belongings.