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Living in fire prone community can mean not having fire coverage included in home insurance

Posted at 11:05 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 02:41:53-04

LAKE ISABELLA, Calif. (KERO) — The Wofford Heights community is unfortunately used to having wildfires nearby every few years. In a rural area prone to those natural disasters, homes are at risk causing some insurance companies to not provide fire coverage due to that.

As firefighters have been trying to protect homes in the direct line of the French Fire, rural communities like Wofford Heights evacuated Sunday night awaiting the news of if their homes will be in direct danger. A Wofford Heights resident said that if you don't have fire coverage in your home insurance living in an area prone to wildfires, can be an even bigger problem.

“The last fire they had, insurance companies many of them around here closed all of the insurance off,” said Gary Lowrey, a Wofford height resident.

Lowery said this happened during the last major fire in the Kern River Valley. He expressed his concern to 23ABC during an ordered evacuation Sunday night.

“You know these people are older, they’re retired, they’re houses are paid for, a lot have mobile homes that are older so there’s probably a lot of people in this area without homeowner’s insurance,” said Lowrey.

Partner at a law firm Chain Cohns Stiles, Matt Clark, said this practice among private insurance carriers of not writing a fire policy into home insurance is not uncommon in areas around California prone to wildfires.

“There’s a similar program in Florida and states in the south because private insurers do not want to write coverage for hurricanes. If a hurricane comes out and wipes out big sections of the state, it can bankrupt an insurance company,” said Clark.

Leaving residents who can’t get fire coverage from carriers two options, the first being not having home insurance.

“The consequences, you pay out of your pocket to rebuild that house. Or if you don’t have money, you don’t have a house,” said Clark.

Or two, insurance sponsored by the state of California known as the California air plan which according to their website covers fires & lightning internal explosions, and smoke, but also requires supplemental costs for other emergencies like earthquakes and floods.

“My son pays almost $1800 a year for that insurance, he can barely afford it and a lot of people can’t because they’re on fixed incomes. They can’t afford four times the amount that they were paying,” said Lowery.

Clark said the state’s premium may not be much higher than private home insurance.

“And the deductibles, although higher than you would traditionally associate with a homeowner’s plan, they’re not abnormally high. We’re not talking about a $100,000 deductible. It could be 5 it could be $10,000. But I understand for people with a fixed income, every dollar counts,” said Clark.