Valley and Butte fires cause an estimated $1 billion in insurance losses
News: 2016 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two of the most destructive fires in California's history, the Valley and Butte Fires, ravaged nearly 150,000 acres in Northern California last fall and caused an estimated $1 billion in insurance losses. The Valley fire pillaged 1,958 structures in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, resulting in approximately $700 million in insured losses and making it the third most damaging wildfire in state history based on total structures burned. In terms of structures lost, the Butte Fire is the seventh most destructive fire to hit California, damaging 818 structures in Amador and Calaveras counties and causing an estimated $300 million in insured losses.
"The Valley and Butte fires were sober reminders of the dangers residents can face in rural areas of the state," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "A year-round fire season is California's new reality. Residents and communities, especially those in high-risk fire areas, must take precautions now before the next devastating wildfire strikes."
Insurers impacted by the Butte and Valley fires are processing claims for residential and commercial structures, cars, personal property, farms and other items. However, the $1 billion claim total does not include all surplus insurance line claims or damages to public infrastructure such as roads and utilities.
To date, insurers report they have received 5,600 claims, have paid out more than $500 million overall, and expect to pay an additional $500 million in anticipated future losses after all claims are received, processed and paid. Insurers are confident that all or most claims resulting from these fires have been reported, but should new claims be filed, these loss estimates may also increase.
Losses from these fires are not expected to impact insurance industry solvency in California. The department continues to monitor wildfire claims handling to ensure the claims are paid in a timely manner so homeowners, businesses and communities can rebuild and recover as quickly as possible.
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- For residents having difficulty securing homeowners insurance, the California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan provides basic property insurance to consumers unable to secure coverage in the voluntary market, especially in high-risk areas.
- Commissioner Jones issued an Order on January 20, 2016 directing the California FAIR Plan to make several changes to better ensure Californians have access to basic property insurance. The Order includes enhanced coverage options, eliminates the requirement that consumers prove they were rejected three times for standard insurance, provides greater access to brokers registered with the FAIR Plan, and included other improvements to ensure California consumers have access to property insurance under the FAIR Plan when standard insurers are not willing to provide coverage. The commissioner directed the Department of Insurance to review the FAIR Plan in the wake of the Valley and Butte fires. Commissioner Jones met with the FAIR Plan to obtain their input on improvements before issuing the Order.
- Top 20 most damaging California wildfires – CAL FIRE data as of 9/25/2015
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.4357. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.