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Wildfire Risk A Key Issue In California Insurance Commissioner Race

Gregory Bull / AP Photo

Fire crews search for hot spots among destroyed homes in the Rancho Monserate Country Club community Friday, Dec. 8, 2017, in Fallbrook, Calif.

Gregory Bull / AP Photo

Some of the big questions in the race for California’s next insurance commissioner focus on how Californians can protect themselves from wildfires, and who holds responsibility when they ignite.  

In this age of warming temperatures and increased fire activity, the insurance commissioner’s policy has broad implications statewide. Former commissioner Steve Poizner held the position from 2007 to 2011. He's running against Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara.

"Unfortunately, this is our new normal,” Lara said of recent wildfires in the state. “We're going to see fires with much more veracity.”

Lara says people or companies that start fires need to be held liable and not given a free pass, and that homeowners need better protection. He says in the past some insurance companies have dropped homeowners because of the risk from wildfires.

“We have to make sure people get their claims paid in a timely manner, so they can rebuild as quickly as possible,” Lara added.

Steve Poizner did not return CapRadio’s requests for this story.

For many Californians, the possibility of losing their insurance due to wildfire risk is a real threat.

"I recently talked to a homeowner who had his insurance canceled about three months before his house was destroyed by a wildfire,” said UC Cooperative Extension forestry and natural resources advisor Susan Kocher.

Kocher says calls from homeowners come often, and that people’s reality is something the new commissioner will have to deal with: a complicated insurance system and a warming climate that's increasing the number, size and impact of fires in California.

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