Feinstein asks for report on effect of wildfire risk on fire insurance rates; local agent says effect of ‘catastrophic’ losses remains unknown

Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to Federal Insurance Office Director Steven E. Seitz requesting a report on the effects of increased wildfire risk on private insurance markets, which is making insurance unaffordable for an increasing number of Californians.

The letter asks for recommendations to make sure that home, business and commercial property insurance covering wildfire-related losses remains available and affordable.

“As you know, it is among FIO’s functions to ‘monitor all aspects of the insurance industry’ and ‘to consult with the States…regarding insurance matters of national importance.’  Rising wildfire risk threatens to make home and business insurance unavailable and/or unaffordable to an ever-larger group of Americans, which I believe is a major problem that warrants your attention,” wrote Feinstein.

“I ask that FIO issue a report on the risks involved, including addressing the questions attached to this letter.”


Local perspective

Susanville Farmers Insurance agent Michelle Hunter said the insurance industry has still not determined the losses from the Camp Fire in 2018 that ravaged Paradise and with many structures and more than 4 million acres blackened this year, she expects the insurance companies will suffer catastrophic losses.

“We’re not going to know the effect of the (current) fires until they’re all done,” Hunter said. “We haven’t calculated everything that came from Paradise yet. The losses are going to be catastrophic.”

The good news is no changes have come down from the Department of Insurance since a notification last year that ensured those who suffered wildfire losses could not be canceled or non-renewed.

Hunter said at least seven or eight major carriers have pulled out of Lassen County “by non-renewing them or tripling their rates” so they had to shop other carriers.

Hunter encouraged Lassen County residents with questions to stay in contact with their carrier.

“The agent will be the first to know if they’re going to start non-renewing the potential risk,” Hunter said. “People have to stay in contact with their agent.”