SACRAMENTO, Calif. (May 2, 2019) — State insurance regulators wrapped up two days of meetings today on growing wildfire insurance risk. The summit included a visit to the town of Paradise and meetings with local officials, homeowners and first responders dealing with the aftermath of the deadliest U.S. wildfire in 100 years.
"Wildfires driven by extreme weather are happening across the entire western United States and California is at the epicenter," said California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, who hosted the summit. "As the ones watching over the industry, we need a united front with homeowners that looks past disaster response to building more fire-resistant and resilient communities and ensuring homeowners' insurance stays affordable and available for all who need it."
Commissioners from California, Oregon, Utah and Washington discussed insurance issues facing homeowners and local governments in the wake of the Camp Fire in December 2018 that left 85 dead, displaced nearly 30,000 people and destroyed more than 10,000 homes. Paradise, Calif. officials presented the challenges of rebuilding and the disruption to city services and tax revenue.
"Wildfires do not respect boundaries, making collaboration among state and federal officials, first responders, and homeowners essential." said Oregon Insurance Commissioner Andrew Stolfi. "The insight shared at these meetings will bolster our work on Governor Brown's Wildfire Response Council to prepare Oregonians for increasingly severe wildfire seasons."
Insurance department staff from Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana and New Mexico also joined the two-day summit, sponsored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
"After spending some time in Paradise, my heart goes out to the community and to the families who suffered so much in the Camp Fire loss," said Utah Insurance Commissioner Todd Kiser. "I appreciate Commissioner Lara and the NAIC gathering commissioners and staff together in this insurance summit. Events like these enable regulators to learn from each other, share best practices and discuss the hard issues facing all of us."
"We have learned valuable lessons during this dramatic, informative visit to areas in California devastated by wildfire," said Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. "This heightens the importance of the work we are doing in the NAIC Climate Risk and Resilience Working Group - and internationally - to mitigate the effects of climate change."
California's 2018 wildfires were the world's most expensive natural disasters, with more than $12 billion in total insured losses reported to date. Rising risk of extreme wildfires has contributed to higher insurance costs and less insurance availability for California homeowners living in the wildland urban interface, even as homeowners in areas with low risk may have seen their rates decrease.