The Cost of the California Wildfires Just Keeps on Rising
Wildfires in California have caused insured losses of more than $3.3 billion, based on claims reported by 15 insurers, and the figure will rise, the California Department of Insurance said Tuesday.
The number includes claims for 10,016 partial residential losses, 4,712 total residential losses, 728 commercial property losses, and 3,200 personal auto losses, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said on a media call.
Since erupting on Oct. 8 and 9, the blazes in parts of Northern California have burnt more than 245,000 acres (99,148 hectares) and destroyed an estimated 8,900 buildings as of Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The fires, which Jones said are now 99-percent contained, caused 43 deaths, including a firefighter.
California is the largest U.S. insurance market, where insurers collect about $289 billion in premiums per year, Jones said.
The $3.3 billion total is more than three times the $1.05 billion preliminary estimate that Jones made on Oct. 19. It’s also more than an estimate of $2 billion to $3 billion made last week by Boston-based AIR Worldwide.
“I am concerned that the fires we just experienced are not an anomaly and may represent the new normal,” Jones said. “We know that the climate is changing and the temperature has been rising.”
The devastation included neighborhoods in Santa Rosa, California, that had been deemed to be at low risk for fire, Jones said.
That could prompt some insurers to update how they determine which areas are potentially risky and then decide to write fewer policies in those places, Jones said.
Those decisions, if made, could affect “significant parts of California,” Jones said.
Insurance company The Travelers (TRV), which announced its third-quarter results on Oct. 19, also warned investors of large claims likely this quarter from the wildfires.
State Farm is California‘s largest home insurer and its sixth-largest commercial fire insurer, according to a Moody’s analysis.