A recent San Francisco Chronicle article on wildfire mitigation featured a California couple who had installed the Frontline Wildfire Defense System in their Mill Valley home.
“I lost my grandmother in a house fire. I have always been super sensitive to the issue,” Kristi Denton Cohen said. Which is why she and her husband Tom installed the Frontline system in their home which Tom built himself in the 1970s.
The Chronicle article included a featured image of Tom Cohen activating Frontline via an app on his smartphone, and explained how the system works:
“When a fire is approaching, the sprinklers intermittently spray water plus a foam solution on the structure and a 50-foot perimeter to prevent embers from spreading. It can be activated manually or remotely from a computer or smartphone app.”
According to the Chronicle, some insurance companies are requiring property owners in fire-prone areas to perform wildfire mitigation due to the rising cost and risk of California wildfires. In some cases, their requirements are even more stringent than the standards recommended by local and state fire departments.
For instance, while California’s Mill Valley is set to approve one of the most aggressive vegetation-management ordinances in the state, many insurance companies aren’t waiting for such measures to take effect. They’re refusing to sell or renew some homeowner policies in high-risk areas. Or they’re requiring wildfire mitigation in order to maintain them.
The state Insurance Department indicates that current law does not prohibit carriers from requiring homeowners to do fire-mitigation work. It only requires that such work falls within existing objective and relevant guidelines.
Homeowners who are having difficulty acquiring insurance from mainstream companies because of high fire risk have two options. They can purchase insurance through a surplus lines carrier, such as Lloyd’s of London. These are much less regulated by the state, and their rates do not have to be approved.
The other option is the California Fair Plan, an association of California’s licensed insurance companies that sells policies on their behalf to people who have been rejected multiple times through no fault of their own. Fair Plan policies offer last-resort coverage and only cover loss from fire.
But another consideration would be to install a Frontline Wildfire Defense System, as some insurance carriers use the Frontline system in their underwriting assessment. In addition, some carriers offer credit or discounts for installing these fire protection systems.
If you reside in a high-risk area, you need to take extra precautions to protect your home and to keep your property adequately insured.
The Frontline Wildfire Defense System, together with defensible space maintenance and the use of fire-resistant building materials, is a key component of a comprehensive wildfire mitigation strategy.