The Commissioner’s action builds on his February 8, 2021, announcement of a wildfire resilience partnership with Governor Gavin Newsom’s Administration to establish fire-hardening measures for insurance companies. The partnership and this proposed regulation will lead to more incentives for homeowners and communities to bring down wildfire risk.
Commissioner Lara has held in-person and virtual meetings on wildfire issues in 36 counties attended by more than 10,000 people since taking office in 2019. More than 500 people attended the Commissioner’s first investigatory wildfire insurance hearing in October 2020, where many consumers spoke about their frustration and confusion at being non-renewed or seeing their premiums increase despite taking action to reduce wildfire risk.
Placer County homeowner Mark Ratermann said he received a non-renewal notice from his insurance company. “When I asked them about it, they said ‘we’re not renewing policies in your area, unless you do these fire mitigation measures,’ so that’s what I did,” he said of spending thousands of dollars and removing 16 trees in an attempt to maintain his insurance. “And yet, with almost no communication from them, a year later they declined and said we’re not going to renew.”
Fire Chiefs from across California also testified about the need for insurance companies to recognize homeowner and community mitigation efforts.
“Fires are bigger, they are burning longer, they are more destructive, and they are killing more people than ever before. And that reality is highly motivating to fire agencies whose job it is to respond and extinguish those fires. But it’s also been motivating to hundreds of thousands of people who live and work in communities both large and small all over this great state of California to do more to reduce hazards and lower their risk,” said Chief Bill Tyler of the Novato Fire Protection District and president of the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association. “Our desire is for insurers to take notice and reward communities like Marin that put in the hard work, that make the commitment, and provide them with adequate, affordable coverage for homes, homeowners, neighborhoods and communities that embrace adaptive measures going forward.”
“At the end of the day, insurability is a reflection of risk, and risk relates exactly to hazards, and hazards can be modified,” said Chief Michael Schwartz of the North Tahoe Fire Protection District. “A lot of times, the fire department and emergency services can work on those things to reduce that risk.