As wildfires continue to rage across Southern California, the state insurance commissioner announced Wednesday, Dec. 6, that the deadly October firestorms accounted for $9.4 billion in claimed loss — the most costly in the state’s history.
“The total statewide loss figures are staggering,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. “Behind that number are personal stories of loss and tragedy.”
The California Department of Insurance released a report Wednesday showing the insured losses from the areas ravaged by October wildfires, as reported by more than 260 insurers through Dec. 1.
The North Bay fires accounted for almost $9 billion of the statewide total of $9.4 billion in losses. Another $72 million in claims were made from Orange County, where the Canyon Fire 2 destroyed dozens of houses.
“These are not estimates, these are actual claim-insured losses,” Jones said.
Just under $3.2 billion has been paid out so far, the report showed.
The claims covered destruction and damage to more than 21,000 homes, 2,800 businesses and 6,100 personal and commercial vehicles. Of those, 5,747 homes and 997 businesses across the state were a total loss, the report said.
Sonoma County felt the brunt of the residential damage, with a total of 14,684 claims, including 4,785 homes that were a total loss. That was followed by Napa County with 2,470 residential claims, including 447 that were a total loss. Orange County had 376 residential claims, 28 of which were a total loss.
“The fires that we’ve seen this fall remind us that fire season is 365 days a year,” Jones said.
Jones said he directed consumer services staff to be ready to assist Southern California fire victims as soon as firefighters contain the wildfires.
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Strong Santa Ana winds have been spreading fire to devastating effect across Southern California this week, including the Thomas fire in Ventura County, the Creek Fire near Sylmar, the Rye fire in Santa Clarita and the Skirball fire in the Sepulveda Pass, which have burned tens of thousands of acres and destroyed scores of homes.
Nicole Mahrt-Ganley, a spokeswoman with Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, advised those who have been evacuated because of a fire to immediately contact their insurers.
“If your home is damaged by the wildfire, your insurers will walk you through the claim process,” Mahrt-Ganley said.
She said most home insurance policies have “additional living expense” coverage, also known as ALE.
People with that coverage can be reimbursed for costs incurred during a mandatory evacuation, such as hotel or rental expenses; food, including replacing food lost if power was cut to their home; storage fees; and additional transportation costs.
“In the beginning, that will get you out of an evacuation center and into a hotel room,” she said.
And for those whose houses were destroyed, it could provide for a family to live in another place while their home is being rebuilt, Mahrt-Ganley said.
“These fires are an important wake-up call,” she said.
Mahrt-Ganley said Southern California residents should do an insurance check-up, making sure their policy reflects the actual square footage or any renovations made to the house.
Residents also should conduct an inventory of their house by using a cellphone to shoot video or photos of each room and valuable possessions. They may want to store the video or photos somewhere online so they can be accessed if residents have to leave their homes — and electronic devices that hold images — behind.
Jones urged Californians who are not in the path of a fire right now to make a plan with their families in case “the worst occurs in your neighborhood.”
“Where will you go? What will be the meeting place for you and your family in case you get separated?” he said. “Prepare an emergency bag of things you’ll need to live on.
“In California, these sorts of events are becoming the new normal,” he added.
Before a fire threatens, take a photo or video inventory of your possessions. Storing it on a secure cloud server means you can access it from anywhere.
If you have to evacuate, don’t forget to take copies of insurance policies, important papers and the photo or video inventory if it isn’t stored on the cloud.
Find tips to prepare your home at www.readyforwildfire.org/Hardening-Your-Home.
Get more advice from the California Department of Insurance on what to do before, during and after a fire at www.insurance.ca.gov or by calling 1-800-927-HELP (4357).
Source: California Department of Insurance
Source: Oc Register