In 2017, California wildfires cost insurance companies $13 billion. That’s $4 billion more than the cost of the prior 10 years combined. In 2018, the costs grew even higher.
Dave Jones, a former insurance commissioner of California, says these skyrocketing costs affect homeowners.
“When risks get too extreme for insurance companies, they do two things,” he says. “One is they raise the price of their product to reflect that risk, and second, they begin to write less insurance for that risk.”
So many Californians now struggle to afford their premiums. And in some cases, insurance companies are refusing to renew homeowner policies.
People can buy fire insurance from the state as a last resort, but to cover other risks to a home, they need to buy homeowner’s insurance on top of that.
“So it’s expensive, and some lower-income homeowners aren’t going to be able to afford it,” Jones says.
As global warming leads to more deadly fires, the problem is likely to get worse.
“We are marching steadily towards an uninsurable future with regard to wildfire risk,” Jones says.
So some people whose homes are damaged or destroyed by a wildfire will be unable to rebuild.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.