Forest fires accelerate another climate crisis: Homeowners who can’t get insurance
Consumer groups prevailed. Last month, the state Senate struck most of the bill’s provisions, instead asking the insurance commissioner to review the current rules and report to the legislature in two years. Even that reduced measure was not put to a vote by the time the annual legislative session ended Monday night.
“It was effectively gutted,” said Rex Frazier, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, which represents insurers. “Despite the fact that half of California is on fire.”
The state insurance commissioner said his goal now was to work with high-risk communities to reduce the risk of wildfires enough for insurers to continue to offer coverage without significant rate increases. “I will continue to act quickly to tackle the costs and availability of insurance against forest fires affecting our state,” said Lara. “If Californians are doing our part to protect homes from wildfires,” the industry should respond by agreeing to insure those homes, he said.
But reducing the human and economic toll of wildfires will require more far-reaching reform than simply tweaking building codes or encouraging better landscaping, others said. It may also require addressing the shortage of new housing in California cities, which has helped push development further into fire-prone areas, a trend that has continued despite years of severe fires in California. forest.
David Shew, former chief of staff at Cal Fire, said the spread of homes in the Land of Fire seemed like a reasonable compromise. “There is a great need to build housing in more affordable areas, which by default tend to be these more exposed and fire-prone landscapes because land is cheaper there,” said Mr. Shew. “There was a feeling that, well, it was worth the risk.”
But as climate change makes forest fires more devastating, that logic seems less obvious, he said. Unless more onerous restrictions on building in high risk areas exacerbate the statewide housing crisis, there are physical and political limits to what governments can do to reduce this risk. which means that insurance will become more expensive.
“We will never, ever have enough fire trucks to park in every driveway,” said Mr. Shew. “It will only get worse.”