SACRAMENTO, Calif. Dec. 20, 2017– Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act to promote fire prevention efforts and ensure Californians can continue to obtain insurance after a record-setting storm of wildfires.
With global warming fueling ever more destructive fires throughout the state, Californians living in wildland urban interface areas have reported denials and cancellations of insurance coverage.
The Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act will help California adapt to the “new normal” of extreme wildfire risk, keep people and homes safe and ensure an ongoing strong market for insurers.
“Extreme wildfire in California is the new normal, and rising temperatures are putting more and more of our state in the fire zone,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “As we are seeing in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Sonoma Counties, what was historically a rural crisis is now an urban crisis, too. We have to prevent an insurance crisis that contributes to California’s housing shortage. The Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act is smart policy that will harness the power of the insurance market, homeowners and local communities to prevent wildfire disaster and speed fire-safe recovery.”
Senator Lara joined local leaders in support of the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act. Placer County has led a regional effort to seek legislative relief for insurance challenges affecting its residents and is a co-sponsor of the act.
“More Californians are at risk from catastrophic wildfire, and many are taking steps to protect themselves and their property,” said Placer County Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery. “Instead of dropping customers and putting insurance out of reach statewide, the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act will allow insurers to continue to profitably invest in California and support responsible property owners and local communities who are stepping up to be fire safe.”
The Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act will:
Prevent insurance companies from dropping or non-renewing customers following a wildfire disaster.
Require insurance companies to offer mitigation discounts and continued coverage to homeowners who make investments in wildfire safety.
Require approval by the Department of Insurance before insurance companies reduce the volume of policies in high-risk areas, in order to minimize market disruptions for homeowners and communities.
California would join states including Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas, New York and Florida that prohibit or limit insurance companies from cancelling or non-renewing policies following a natural disaster. Others, like Alabama, require insurance companies to offer discounts to property owners who “harden” their homes against disasters.
California and local laws require homeowners to maintain a defensible space of 100 feet around structures and fire-resistant building materials in new homes. Homeowners can also harden their home with fire-resistant roofing and other materials, and by covering chimneys and vents, according to Cal Fire. The Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act would require insurance companies to offer discounts to homeowners who take additional steps to protect their homes.
The legislation will spur increased investments in fire prevention. More than 100 California communities have joined the national Firewise program to promote wildfire prevention efforts, and in 2014 the Department of Insurance approved mitigation discounts by insurance company USAA to homeowners in Firewise communities.
California Firewise communities report spending nearly $8.7 million to date in 2017 to mitigate wildfire risk, which includes home improvements, vegetation management and volunteer efforts.
Senator Lara will formally introduce language for the Wildfire Safety and Recovery Act in the legislative session starting Jan. 3, 2018.