Filed Under:Claims, Catastrophe & Restoration

California: Insured losses from September wildfires top $1B

In this Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, a firefighting plane drops a load of fire retardant over a smoldering hillside in Middletown, Calif. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)
In this Sept. 15, 2015, file photo, a firefighting plane drops a load of fire retardant over a smoldering hillside in Middletown, Calif. (Photo: Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)

Two wildfires in Northern California last fall caused an estimated $1 billion in insurance losses, according to a preliminary report from the California Department of Insurance.

The fires in the state’s Valley and Butte areas are among the most costly in the state’s history, the report said.

The Valley fire destroyed 1,958 homes and buildings in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, which resulted in an estimated $700 million in insured losses, the department said.

The Butte fire destroyed 818 homes and buildings in Amador and Calaveras counties, which resulted in an estimated $300 million in insured losses.

The Valley fire is the third-most damaging wild fire in the state’s history and the fire in Butte is the seventh-most damaging. The two fires, which happened in September, destroyed nearly 150,000 acres.

"A year-round fire season is California's new reality. Residents and communities, especially those in high-risk fire areas, must take precautions now before the next devastating wildfire strikes,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said.

The state’s claim total estimate covers residential and commercial structures, cars, personal property, farm and other items. The total, however, does not include surplus line claims or damages to public infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, the department said.

Insurers told the state that they have received 5,600 claims and have paid out more than $500 million overall to date.

Losses from these fires are not expected to affect insurance solvency in California, the state report said.

The Oakland Hills Fire of 1991 remains the most expensive wildfire in the state’s history, with $2.6 billion in inflation-adjusted covered losses.

Related: California wildfires seen as costliest for insurers since 1991

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