Commissioner Lara calls for insurance companies to support home-hardening and community mitigation safety efforts during Wildfire Awareness Month
News: 2021 Press Release
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Joined by California homeowners and first responders during Wildfire Awareness Month, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara gave an update on the proactive actions he is taking to protect and prepare Californians. He also announced that some insurance companies are providing premium discounts to homeowners who take steps to harden their homes and neighborhoods against wildfires – and called on more insurance companies to incentivize this important and necessary fire mitigation.
“The science is clear: Wildfire-hardened homes and neighborhoods better resist damage and are easier for firefighters to defend, protecting lives, homes, and our first responders,” said Commissioner Lara. “When insurance companies recognize the benefit of hardening your home and offer incentives to consumers, that just builds on homeowners’ hard work and strengthens a competitive insurance market.”
Currently eight insurers and the California FAIR Plan offer premium discounts depending on the home characteristics or neighborhood mitigation efforts. The companies represent approximately 13 percent of the state residential market. That number has increased from 6.8 percent since Commissioner Lara took office in 2019 with many more homeowners insurance companies approaching the Department with filings containing home- and community-hardening mitigation incentives and discounts.
Community leaders from across the state said insurance incentives would strengthen their efforts to increase mitigation in local communities across the state.
“With a little education and planning to prepare we can significantly reduce our risk for wildfire,” said Elaine Himelfarb, executive director of the Ventura Regional Fire Safe Council. “We all need to take responsibility for what we are doing as much as we can to protect our homes, our pets, our loved ones, our neighbors, our communities, the environment and home-hardening is one of the most effective things we can do.”
“There’s been a lot of attention on wildfires being bigger and burning longer and being more destructive than ever, and people can get overwhelmed by these reports,” said Novato Fire District Chief Bill Tyler, whose department serves the city of Novato and surrounding areas of Marin County. “There are pathways to
resilience and prevention, and measures to avoid wildfire losses. Hardening one’s home by installing ignition-resistant building materials and modifying the landscape vegetation immediately around the home removes the hazards and lowers one’s risk, period. Our end destination is for insurers to see how these pathways merge to multiple lanes that come together and create a framework for avoiding loss.”
“Our community has developed a multifaceted approach to fire prevention,” said East Bay homeowner Sue Wecht, executive board member of the Orinda Firewise Council, a network of fire-mitigated communities. “We look forward to continuing to work with Commissioner Lara, and we are hoping that by taking these fire prevention measures around our homes, neighborhoods, and throughout our city that insurance companies will recognize our efforts and reward us with more availability and give us credit to offset the expenses that we have incurred.”
With our growing drought state of emergency and the reality of climate change, Commissioner Lara is working alongside Governor Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders to rapidly increase incentives and funding for wildfire preparation.
Commissioner Lara announced a wildfire mitigation partnership with Governor Newsom’s administration in February that will establish home- and community-hardening measures for retrofits of older existing homes in order to help them seek and maintain insurance coverage. Representatives from the Department of Insurance, Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) have been meeting since then.
“We have to help those who are least able to afford to harden their homes, including our seniors, through insurance incentives and financial assistance through our state budget,” added Commissioner Lara. “As I continue working with the Governor’s administration on creating a list of consistent mitigation measures, I want to see more insurance companies offering and expanding their incentive programs to support attainable mitigation efforts.”
Commissioner Lara strongly supports additional state budget funding for retrofits of existing older homes in vulnerable areas. Governor Newsom expedited $536 million for wildfire preparation with his signing of Senate Bill 85 in April, including $25 million in funds to assist home-hardening projects. Commissioner Lara supports additional spending on low-cost retrofits of homes under the California Wildfire Mitigation Financial Assistance Program, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Newsom in 2019.
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- Watch Commissioner Lara’s remarks with local leaders at our Facebook page.
- The insurers offering premium discounts are Mercury Insurance Group, USAA Group, Falls Lake Fire and Casualty Company, American Modern Home Insurance Company, ASI Select Insurance Corporation, The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Wawanesa General Insurance Company, and Occidental Fire & Casualty Company of North Carolina.
- While discounts differ by company, they recognize home-hardening measures including ember-resistant vents, enclosed eaves, and fire suppression or sprinkler systems, and community-wide measures such as a Firewise Community designation or other active fuel mitigation program. To learn about whether their home qualifies for a discount, consumers can contact the companies or locate a licensed agent through the Department of Insurance website.
The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $371 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. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.