Flames consume a Kentucky Fried Chicken as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018

AP Photo/Noah Berger

Losses From Recent California Fires Will Be At Least $9 Billion

KCBS Radio Afternoon News
December 12, 2018 - 5:19 pm

The insurance losses from three of the recent destructive wildfires in California will cost more than $9 billion, according to an estimate released on Wednesday by state officials. 

That Department of Insurance figure accounts for houses, businesses and other property that were destroyed or damaged in the Camp Fire in Butte County, and the Woolsey Fire and Hill Fire in Southern California. 

The preliminary figures “represent enormous losses for these communities, and behind these numbers are real people who have suffered real tragedies," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. 

At a press conference on Wednesday, Jones ticked through the grim numbers that make up the damage.

“People that have lost their homes, lost all of their belongings, lost their jobs, and, in some cases, lost their lives,” Jones said.

That $9 billion figure is actually lower than the totals from last year's major wildfires in October and December, when claims totaled $12 billion.

The difference largely reflects the disparity among home values in the affected regions. The Wine Country homes were generally pricier than those in Paradise and nearby areas, which were leveled by the Camp Fire. 

The Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed 13,792 homes, making it the deadliest and most destructive blaze in the state's history. 

The insurance industry, meanwhile, is feeling the pinch as well.

“What’s happening is that insurers are responding to climate change, the growing risk of more severe and more frequent and more unpredictable fires,” Jones said. “They’re responding to their losses.”

Because of that, Jones expects to see more companies seeking to increase rates, particularly in areas with a higher risk of wildfires.

“I anticipate we’re going to see more insurers choosing not to renew insurance for those homes they believe to be at too great a risk,” Jones said. 

Reported by Keith Menconi.

Written by Brian Krans.