All this firefighter can do is watch this home in Doyle go up in flames. File photo

Lassen County Supervisor calls on Insurance Commissioner, legislature to fix state’s fire insurance crisis

Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram calls on the state insurance commissioner and the state legislature to fix the state’s fire insurance crisis. File photos

Frustrated Lassen County District 5 Supervisor Jason Ingram says enough is enough, and now it’s past time for the California Insurance Commissioner and/or the state legislature to offer some explanations, answers and ultimately solutions to the fire insurance issues he alleges are killing Lassen County. Ingram said elected and appointed officials can’t ignore this issue any longer. They have to start talking about this and come up with a solution.

“I’m calling on Ricardo Lara (the state insurance commissioner) to come up here and address the Lassen County Board of Supervisors in person and give us an update,” Ingram said, “because at the end of the day we’re going to end up with a bunch of vacant homes that cannot be sold and everybody’s going to move out of Lassen County and the state of California.”

Ingram points to a story about the population decreases in California’s northern-most counties.

“It’s us,” Ingram implores. “It’s us, Plumas, Modoc, Mono, Siskiyou — people are leaving in all the surrounding counties in the highest percentage all around Lassen County. If we don’t do something about this fire insurance, we’re going to stay number one with the population percentage leaving the counties. We don’t want to have that number one title.”

Ricardo Lara is California’s eighth Insurance Commissioner since voters created the elected position in 1988. As leader of the nation’s largest state consumer protection agency, he will protect Californians’ futures. But Lassen County District Supervisor Jason Ingram said he’s been trying to reach Lara for weeks with not a single response.

Ingram bitterly complains he’s been trying to speak with Lara about this issue on behalf of his constituents for weeks, and despite all his repeated efforts, the insurance commissioner won’t even give him the courtesy of acknowledging his communications.

“It’s his job to talk to a county supervisor,” and regular citizens as well, Ingram said. “I’ve been getting calls all day long about this, and that’s my job — I’m a public servant. If you call me, I call you back.”

And Ingram said Lara, as a public servant, not responding to his concerns is completely unacceptable.

“I’m afraid at the end of the day we’re going to lose more people and more people are going to lose their homes,” Ingram said.

Ingram said the other day he talked to an 84-year-old war veteran who recently lost his home. Ingram said he got a reverse mortgage and then his insurance company raised his fire insurance $1,000 a month, “and the guy just lost everything he’s worked for his whole life. I have senior citizens calling me all the time, saying, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ Some people are opting to pay off their properties, so they don’t have to pay for fire insurance (required of everyone who has a mortgage). Now, what happens to that poor senior citizen when a fire comes through and wipes out his or her home. They’ve lost everything they’ve worked for their whole life.”

And, believe it or not, Ingram said he’s been a victim of the fire insurance nightmare himself. He said he’s talked to 50 or 60 people about this matter recently. Even (former Susanville Fire) Chief James Moore, who’s recently been charged $850 a month for his fire insurance in Janesville.

“Nobody can afford that,” Ingram said.

Ingram acknowledged two representatives from the state department of insurance appeared remotely at a recent board of supervisor’s meeting, but he said he wasn’t impressed by their presentation in any way.

“Everything they said had nothing to do with fixing the crisis that we have,” Ingram said.

One insurance insider said there are something like 600 rate increases on the commissioner’s desk awaiting approval, and since some insurance companies cannot raise their rates without Lara’s approval, they’re simply pulling out of the market instead.

“He’s (Lara) the guy who’s controlling our problem and doing nothing about it,” Ingram said. “I want him to come up here and address the board of supervisors in person. And I want to know where we’re at with these private negotiations. Is he even negotiating? I mean, if you’re not getting back to local supervisors, what are you doing down there?”

And Ingram said this isn’t a time for party politics.

“This should be a bipartisan effort,” Ingram said. “There are people outside of Los Angeles, outside of Sacramento — Democrats and Republicans — who are getting their insurance cancelled or their rates increased 400 to 500 percent. This is something the California State Legislature should be working on together with a bipartisan effort to fix. I’m just a Lassen County Supervisor. I need help from the powers that be.”