Insurers drop fire coverage for 350,000 California residents

Insurance has become a serious problem in California as wildfires -- past and present -- wreak havoc on the state.

After last year’s devastating wildfires, insurance companies are balking at fire coverage policy renewals for more than 350,000 residents in high-risk areas.

"We are seeing an increasing trend across California where people at risk of wildfires are being non-renewed by their insurer," state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement.

The California Department of Insurance “has seen cases where homeowners were paying an annual premium of $800-$1,000 but, upon renewal, saw increases to as high as $2,500-$5,000,” a staggering rise of more than 300 percent in most cases.

The department added that “some of these homeowners have conducted extensive and costly defensible-space and other mitigation, but these actions did not lower premiums.”

Insurers, meanwhile, are struggling to find a financially viable coverage model as blazes become increasingly common and unpredictable.

“Experts consulted by the strike force believe climate change, development patterns, deferred utility equipment maintenance, and other factors suggest much-heightened risk going forward,” per a report by California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strike force.

However, “predicting how much risk and how consistently is more difficult,” and “there is also uncertainty about the level of success we can expect in reducing the frequency and severity of wildfires.”

Last year’s Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive in California history, engulfed more than 18,000 structures and killed more than 80 people before it was contained. It caused more than $12 billion in insured losses.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection lists 12 active “incidents” at the time of publication.