This vehicle was consumed during a recent out-of-control wildfire that devastated the South County community of Doyle. CalFire and Cal OES announce funding for fire hardening projects in six California counties, but offer no help for us here in Lassen County. File photo

Safer from Wildfires website says homeowners get fire insurance discounts for hardening their property

Can’t buy homeowner’s fire insurance in Lassen County? Acting as a last resort provider, a variety of agencies in the state have come together to offer insurance to those who cannot purchase it anywhere else. And they say if homeowners follow the state’s directions, they may get a “discount” on their insurance rate — especially those in a Firewise USA or a Fire Risk Reduction Community. That discount in Lassen County reportedly is a whopping 5 percent.

According to the California Department of Insurance website, fire insurance rates can be lower for homeowners who follow the Safer from Wildfire guidelines and harden their property.

According to the website, “Safer from Wildfires is a ground-up approach to wildfire resilience with three layers of protection — for the structure, the immediate surrounding and the community. Following these achievable steps can help you save money on your insurance. Safer from Wildfires was created by an interagency partnership between Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and the emergency response and readiness agencies in Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration.”

The state reports the California State Hazard Mitigation Plan represents the state’s primary hazard mitigation guidance and establishes the California’s commitment to reduce or eliminate potential risks and impacts of natural and human-caused disasters to help communities with their mitigation and disaster resiliency efforts. For community mitigation, there are many actions that cities and counties need to take to comply with state law or to be eligible for federal and state funding. For example, cities and counties must have a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan reviewed by Cal OES, approved by the federal Emergency Management Agency, and locally adopted to be eligible for state and federal funding.

Lassen County Administrative Officer Richard Egan told Lassen News those elements are already in place here in Lassen County.

According to the website, following these 10 steps Learn the 10 steps to being Safer from Wildfires, “will qualify you for an insurance discount. By doing more, you can save more.”

Here are the 10 steps
Class-A fire-rated roof
Most roofs qualify including asphalt shingles, concrete, brick or masonry tiles and metal shingles or sheets. Wood shake shingles are not Class A fire-resistant rated. The Office of the State Fire Marshal maintains a list of tested and approved materials.

5 foot ember resistant zone, including fencing
Removing greenery and replacing wood chips with stone or decomposed granite 5 feet around your home prevents fire from getting a foot in the door. Replacing wood fencing connecting to your home with metal is critical because it can act like a candle wick leading fire straight to your home.

Ember- and fire-resistant vents
Installing 1/16 to 1/8 inch noncombustible, corrosion-resistant metal mesh screens over exterior vents can keep wind-blown embers out of your house.

Non-combustible 6 inches at the bottom of exterior walls
Having a minimum of 6 vertical inches measured from the ground up and from any attached horizontal surface like a deck can stop embers from accumulating and igniting your walls. Noncombustible materials include brick, stone, fiber-cement siding or concrete.

Enclosed eaves
Installing soffits under your eaves can prevent heat and embers from getting trapped and igniting. When enclosing eaves, non-combustible or ignition resistant materials are recommended.

Upgraded windows
Multi-paned windows are more resistant to breaking during a wildfire, which helps keep flames from entering. Multi-paned glass or added shutters all qualify.

Cleared vegetation, weeds and debris from under decks
Noncombustible materials like concrete, gravel, or bare soil are permitted.

Removal of combustible sheds and other outbuildings to at least a distance of 30 feet
These include sheds, gazebos, accessory dwelling units, open covered structures with a solid roof, dog houses and playhouses.

Defensible space compliance
Following state and local laws requiring defensible space including trimming trees and removal of brush and debris from yard. See CAL FIRE’s defensible space page and your local city or county for details.

Being safer together
Safer from Wildfires recognizes two community-wide programs, Firewise USA and Fire Risk Reduction Communities as small as eight-dwelling units or as big as 2,500 can create an action plan and start being safer together. Firewise USA is a nationally recognized program with proven results, sponsored by the National Fire Prevention Association.

According to the website, “The list is consistent with the commissioner’s goals of a science-based, effective, achievable and consistent approach to insurance incentives for home and community hardening that is understandable to homeowners.”

According to the website, this plan came together in February 2021 as an “Interagency Wildfire Mitigation Partnership” including the insurance commission and the California Department of Insurance; CAL OES; the California governor’s Office of Planning and Research; CalFire; and the California Public Utilities Commission “to establish consistent, statewide home and community hardening actions that are applicable to insurance incentives.”

According to the website, “It is difficult to incentivize broad-scale wildfire mitigation measures without consistent and achievable guidance to homeowners and communities. Therefore, a partnership to coordinate risk mitigation efforts and incentives will enhance the overall benefits of mitigation to Californians and avoid potential inconsistencies across government. The Wildfire Partnership has an opportunity to increase clarity for homeowners and communities, communicated through state programs and insurance mitigation incentives, to promote systematic risk reduction among homeowners, communities, businesses, and local governments and increase insurance availability in the state, especially for existing homes in the wildland-urban interface.”

Interagency Wildfire Mitigation Partnership Summary Document Partners

  • Insurance Commissioner and the California Department of Insurance
  • California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services
  • California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
  • California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • California Public Utilities Commission

Summary
In February, 2021, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced the Wildfire Partnership between the California Department of Insurance and Governor Gavin Newsom’s Administration, including the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research  and the California Public Utilities Commission to establish consistent, statewide home and community hardening actions that are applicable to insurance incentives.

The Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety, established in July 2021, also contributed to the process. While California has existing wildfire building standards for new development as established by CalFire, this new partnership focuses on retrofits for older existing homes in order to help them reduce their individual risk and potentially seek and maintain affordable insurance coverage, thus giving policyholders and insurance companies a shared strategy for reducing overall wildfire risks for the State. This list advances a consistent approach for insurance that is based on the areas of strong consensus from the fire science of state experts and independent research groups.

Reducing wildfire risk has clear benefits to insurance availability and affordability, state emergency management, and community resiliency. It is difficult to incentivize broad- scale wildfire mitigation measures without consistent and achievable guidance to homeowners and communities. Therefore, a partnership to coordinate risk mitigation efforts and incentives will enhance the overall benefits of mitigation to Californians and avoid potential inconsistencies across government. The Wildfire

Partnership has an opportunity to increase clarity for homeowners and communities, communicated through state programs and insurance mitigation incentives, to promote systematic risk reduction among homeowners, communities, businesses, and local governments and increase insurance availability in the state, especially for existing homes in the wildland- urban interface.

Wildfire partnership list of home and community protection measures rationale
To determine the below list, the Wildfire Partnership met internally to apply existing expertise, and then with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, representatives of the California Fire Chiefs Association, United Policyholders, Consumer Federation of America, American Property Casualty Insurance Association, and the Personal Insurance Federation of California. Upon engaging with experts and scientists, this action list was created to represent a consistent approach to insurance incentives.

This list of measures is consistent with substantial portions of a home hardening proposal by United Policyholders Wildfire Risk Reduction and Asset Protection initiative and the recent research of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety Wildfire Prepared Home. This list aligns with portions of the Low-Cost Retrofit List published by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and portions of the California Building Code Chapter 7A. All actions on the Low Cost Retrofit List are important for fire risk reduction, however, a subset are recommended for the following list of measures to account for what actions can be readily verified.

For example, caulking and plugging gaps (greater than 1/8th inch) around exposed rafters and regularly cleaning the roof gutters, decks, and at the base of walls to avoid accumulation of flammable materials enhance a hardened structure.

The California State Hazard Mitigation Plan represents the state’s primary hazard mitigation guidance and establishes the California’s commitment to reduce or eliminate potential risks and impacts of natural and human-caused disasters to help communities with their mitigation and disaster resiliency efforts. For community mitigation, there are many actions that cities and counties need to take to comply with state law or to be eligible for federal and state funding.

For example, cities and counties must have a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan reviewed by Cal OES, approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and locally adopted to be eligible for state and federal funding. Furthermore, communities should have an up-to-date Safety Element of their General Plan and a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.