November Wildfires Were Most Costly in Californian History

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California’s devastating fires. Credit: AP Photo/Noah Berger

Insurance claims for the November wildfires in California have topped $12 billion, making them the most expensive in state history, according to figures released yesterday by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. The majority of the damages relate to the Paradise fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed almost 19,000 buildings, reports Time.

“While last year’s tragic wildfires turned thousands of people’s lives upside down, insurance is helping to rebuild and recover,” Lara said in a news release during Wildfire Preparedness Week.

California experienced some of its deadliest and most destructive fires in its history in 2017 and 2018. The wildfires in late 2017 had been the most expensive, with claims topping $11.8 billion.

The increasing destruction is making it harder and more costly for people to obtain homeowners insurance.

California lawmakers are grappling this year with ways to address the cost and destruction of wildfires. Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., the state’s largest utility, filed for bankruptcy in January, saying it could not afford potentially tens of billions of dollars in liability costs related to fires. State law makes utilities financially liable for damages from wildfires caused by their equipment, even if they aren’t found to be negligent.


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