A firefighter watches the 2020 Bobcat Fire burn in Juniper Hills, Calif.

New California Wildfire Safety Plan Hopes to Fix Homeowners Insurance Crisis

California officials rolled out a program this month hoping to fix the state’s homeowners insurance crisis. 

In recent years, midrange insurers have dropped coverage for thousands of homeowners with properties in fire-prone areas. Recently, some high-end insurers announced a pullback from the regulated market.

The “Safer from Wildfire” program, announced by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, will encourage residents to take measures to “harden” their properties, neighborhoods, and communities against wildfire.

“Reducing the wildfire risk is critical to making insurance available, reliable and affordable for all Californians,” Lara said.

California’s wildfire insurance problem exploded after several wildfires in 2017 and 2018 cost insurers a combined $29 billion in claims.

According to reports, the new program promotes retrofits to homes that include:

  • Class-A fire-resilient roofs
  • Upgrading to double-paned windows
  • Non-combustible 6 inches at the bottom of exterior walls
  • Ember and fire-resistant vents
  • And enclosing eaves

Other recommendations extend onto the property to create defensible space by trimming trees and removing brush and debris from the yard.

Additionally, the Safer from Wildfire program extends to the greater community seeking an evacuation route cleared of vegetative overgrowth and evacuation plan contingencies, among other recommendations.

The program received input from many stakeholders, including Cal Fire, the Office of Emergency Services, and industry associations such as the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, according to reports.

There are signs that the insurance crisis is easing. While wildfires scorched more acres than ever in the past two years, property damage was relatively light, according to the Sacramento Bee

Still, insurers say that genuinely ending the crisis will partly depend on overhauling the system for setting premium rates. They want Commissioner Lara to adopt a method known as a catastrophic rating, which leans more heavily on estimates of future risks than previous losses. Lara has stated he opposes the catastrophic rating.

Editorial photo credit: Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock.com