Northern California wildfires set $9.4 billion insurance claims record
Four October wildfires and another big one this month have loaded insurers with their biggest bills ever.
Five new fires are among the state’s most destructive, and the 100,000 residents evacuated from Northern California’s blazes two months ago have returned to 5,747 completely destroyed homes, 997 lost businesses, and 15,000 more damaged homes. More than $9.4 billion went up in smoke – counting only insured losses.
“The October wildfires that devastated whole communities and tragically cost 44 people their lives have now proven to be the most destructive and deadliest in our state’s history,” California insurance commissioner Dave Jones said.
The fall firestorms added five new names to the 20 all-time worst fires list, including the devastating Tubbs fire in Sonoma County. The blaze was the most destructive and second-most deadly fire in California’s history, scorching nearly 37,000 acres, destroying 5,643 structures and taking 22 lives.
Also on the list are Sonoma’s Nuns fire at #6, Ventura County’s still-uncontained Thomas fire at #10, Napa and Solano counties’ Atlas fire at #11, and Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley fire at #17. At 230,000 acres and growing, the raging Thomas fire continues to threaten people and property, potentially being the most expansive.
To date, the fires have resulted in destruction and damage for more than 21,000 homes ($8.4 billion in insurance claims), 2,800 businesses ($790 million in claims), more than 6,100 private and commercial vehicles ($96 million in claims), and 788 losses of agricultural equipment, watercraft, etc. ($110 million in claims).
Of this whopping $9.4 billion figure, around one third, or $3.2 billion, has been paid by insurance companies.
The data comes from 260 insurers who reported to the state; it does not include any losses that were uninsured.
Insurance against fire is commonly included in homeowners insurance policies, though the benefits for those who lost their homes in the wildfires can vary from company to company and policy to policy. One important difference is homeowners insurance coverage for actual cash value versus replacement cost. Actual cash value coverage reduces the value of your home and possessions by the amounts they have depreciated over time, while replacement cost coverage will pay out whatever it costs to buy a new replacement.
Flooding, on the other hand, is a more complicated issue for insurance, and help has been slow to reach victims of August’s hard-hitting Hurricane Harvey.