Smoke from the 2020 "River Fire" fills the sky in Monterey County, Calif.

California Agencies Team Up for New Wildfire Hardening Standards

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California’s insurance regulator will team up with the Governor’s office and other state agencies to create new standards to lower wildfire risk for homes and communities.

The partnership will seek to establish consistent statewide “hardening” standards for older homes, stated the California Department of Insurance.

Hardening your home means taking steps to improve the chance of your home and other structures withstanding a wildfire.

California already has wildfire building standards for new developments that include building material upgrades, creating defensible space, and using fire-resistant landscaping.

The new hardening standards will apply to retrofits and help homeowners find and keep fire insurance coverage.

“With home and community hardening standards in place, Californians can hope to save lives and property through safer homes and increase insurance availability,” Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in the statement. “Our insurance market is responding to higher wildfire risk, so safeguarding homes will assist consumers in finding and keeping their insurance.”

California has been hit hard by devastating wildfires over the past few years, including 2020’s August Complex fire, which reached an ominous designation as a “gigafire.” A gigafire is a wildfire that burns one million acres.

Insurers have dropped coverage for homeowners in certain parts of California that have “moderate to very high fire risk.”

Non-renewals of insurance policies climbed 31% statewide in 2019, seeing an even more significant increase than the prior year. According to the California Department of Insurance, in ZIP codes with elevated fire, non-renewals jumped to 61%.

“As our state continues to grapple with catastrophic wildfires, it is important that we take proactive steps to prepare and protect our communities,” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, one of the other partnering agencies.

All state agencies and departments will begin meeting this month.

Photo credit: Smoke from the “River Fire” fills the sky in Monterey County, Calif. on August 16, 2020. (David A Litman / Shutterstock)