The wildfires that ravaged Northern California are now mostly under control. However, 2,300 firefighters are still on the job and are working toward total control.
The damage is unimaginable. It’s hard to wrap our heads around fires moving at unbelievable speed took the lives of 42 people and injured hundreds more. Others — 100,000 in all — barely escaped with their lives. Many had no time to pack anything and lost everything.
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said 15 insurers have posted these claim statistics:
• 10,016 residential properties that are partial losses
• 4,712 residential properties that are total losses
• 728 commercial property losses, which includes commercial businesses and multi-family (apartments) with four or more units
• Over 3,200 personal auto losses
• 91 commercial vehicle losses
• 153 farm or agriculture equipment losses
• 111 watercraft
The fires also did millions in damage to the area’s critical wine industry.
At a memorial service in Sonoma County for the victims of the fire, Sheriff Rob Giordano said, “We don’t control these things, and it makes you realize how small you are in the world when something like this happens. I don’t think we understand the level at which it is going to impact lives, and the community will be different.”
The service was attended by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and five other members of the California congressional delegation. Pelosi said she hopes federal, state and local officials will ease the red tape so temporary housing can be set up. She also wants to make sure the Environmental Protection Agency has the funds necessary to clean up hazardous materials before they can enter the water table.
In a statement, Pelosi said it is critical that Congress understand — and respond to — this disaster. “It was just unfathomable the amount of destruction that we saw. My colleagues will have to understand this is different from anything else, many times over,” she said.
Pointing to the disaster responders and firefighters, Pelosi said they can serve as the model for disaster response on a federal level. They — she said — did it right. Pelosi wants Congress to look beyond the rebuilding and focus on how to better prepare regions to mitigate damage for future disasters.
So far Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has given $6 million for rental and other assistance to those who are displaced. What isn’t in place is places for them to go. Santa Rosa alone lost 5% of its housing. Places to live is at a premium. Rent — some report — is rising and in some cases doubling. A few people are reporting that they’ve been evicted because they refused to pay rent for apartments and homes that suddenly doubled.
Commissioner Jones said he’s sent detectives from his department’s law enforcement team to the affected areas. The purpose is to educate those affected by the fire about how to avoid being victimized by scam artists.
Weekly Industry News will keep you posted on these developments.
California Congressman Mike Thompson was also at the event. He worries about illegal immigrants being arrested and deported if they request assistance from FEMA.
Thompson also address another issue — and one more critical to residents of the areas impacted and areas that might be impacted in the future — and that’s communication. He said alerting people to danger is more difficult in an era where landlines have been replaced by cellphones
RMS has revised its thinking and thinks insured losses will eventually hit $6 billion to $8 billion. Losses include property damage, contents and business interruption and will impact residential, commercial and industrial insurance lines.
The California Department of Insurance says losses reported from 15 insurers — at least so far — total $3 billion and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said that number will rise.
“As shocking as $3 billion in insured losses are, the number is sure to grow, as more claims are coming. The insured losses only tell part of the tragic story of the October fires. We must remember that 43 people lost their lives and behind every insurance claim is someone who has lost their home, their business, and their precious memories. It will take years for these communities to recover and rebuild,” he said.
Jones has sent consumer services teams in the area to assist those needing insurance help.
The commissioner also has other worries for consumers. He thinks insurers could start leaving Northern California because of the constant fire danger. “We may also see — unfortunately — insurance companies updating their models of risk associated with these fires. And that may mean in some cases some insurers will decide to write less insurance in some areas that had traditionally had been viewed as lower risk,” Jones said.
He hopes that doesn’t happen because people need what insurers provide. “Behind each and every one of these claims, and behind the over $3 billion in insured losses claims, are ordinary people. Tens of thousands lost everything in what has proven to be the deadliest and one of the most costly set of wildfires in our state’s history,” the commissioner added.
Source links: Insurance Business America, Insurance Journal — link 1, link 2