Wildfire Insurance Coverage in California

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Wildfire Insurance Coverage in California

California is notorious for its devastating wildfires. In 2020 alone, wildfires destroyed over 4 million acres and billions of dollars in damages. As wildfires in California become more frequent and severe, it’s important for homeowners to understand how to get insurance to protect their property from wildfire damage.

A typical homeowners insurance policy does provide several coverages that can help homeowners recover after a wildfire, but for those living in wildfire-prone areas, affordable home insurance policies can be hard to come by. As such, it’s important to know what alternatives are available if you can’t find homeowners insurance coverage in your area.

Here’s everything you need to know about wildfire insurance coverage in California.

What Causes Wildfires in California?

While wildfires can occur naturally, though many of them are caused by humans. Some of the most common causes of wildfires in California include:

  • Burning debris
  • Discarded cigarettes
  • Arson
  • Unattended campfires
  • Equipment malfunctions
  • Fallen power lines

Some of California’s most destructive wildfires have also been caused by lightning strikes. Since California’s climate tends to be very hot and dry, wildfires are able to ignite and spread easily.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Wildfire Damage?

Homeowners insurance typically does cover wildfire damage. Home insurance policies include several coverages to help homeowners repair their homes, replace their personal belongings, and cover other expenses that may arise after a wildfire damages or destroys their home.

Dwelling and other structures coverage

Dwelling coverage protects your home’s main structure from damages, including wildfire damage. If your home is destroyed by a wildfire, your dwelling coverage can help pay to repair or replace it up to your coverage limit.

Other structures coverage covers your home’s detached structures, like a detached garage, fence, deck, or patio. This coverage limit is typically equal to a percentage of your dwelling coverage limit.

Personal property coverage

Personal property coverage can help you pay to replace your personal belongings after a wildfire. This might include furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, jewelry, and other valuables. Homeowners should take inventory of their personal property and adjust their personal property coverage limit as needed to make sure it will pay to replace all of their valuables.

Additional living expenses coverage

If a wildfire destroys your home and forces you to temporarily relocate, additional living expenses (ALE) coverage can help you pay for hotel costs, meals, and other temporary living expenses. In California, homeowners can make ALE claims if local authorities order them to evacuate, even if they don’t suffer any wildfire damages.

Does Condo Insurance Cover Wildfires?

Condo insurance does typically cover wildfire damage done to your condo’s interior walls. Condo insurance policies typically include the following coverages:

  • Interior walls coverage
  • Personal property coverage
  • Additional living expenses coverage

Your homeowners association’s master policy should cover any damages that a wildfire does to the exterior of your condo.

What to Do if You Can’t Find Coverage

California homeowners may find it difficult to find home insurance policies due to the high risk of wildfires in the region. In these cases, there are two main ways for homeowners to get coverage: Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plans and Excess and surplus line carriers.

FAIR Plans are state-mandated insurance programs that offer home insurance coverage to homeowners in fire-prone areas. These plans are typically more expensive than standard home insurance policies but may be the best option for homeowners that can’t find coverage elsewhere.

Surplus and excess line carriers provide coverage for homes that other insurers won’t cover. Like FAIR Plans, coverage through surplus and excess line carriers is often more expensive than standard home insurance policies, so homeowners should exhaust their other options before purchasing coverage through one of these carriers.

How Homeowners Can Prevent Wildfire Damage

California homeowners can help prevent wildfire damage by taking a few precautionary measures. Keep these tips in mind to help protect your home against fires:

  • Remove excess vegetation: To create a safe zone around your home, remove excess and dead vegetation, including vines and shrubs, from around your home. Make sure to also trim tree branches and shrubs to create more space between them.
  • Avoid exposed space: Exposed space underneath decks, porches, and balconies make it easier for wildfires to spread. Remove all combustibles from underneath decks and porches, and use fire-resistant building materials and furniture in outdoor areas.
  • Cover openings: Homeowners should use mesh wire to cover attic vents, soffit vents. Louvers, and other home openings to protect their homes against wildfires.
  • Use fire-resistant roofing material: Use fire-resistant building materials like fiberglass shingles, slate, metal, or concrete tile to make your home less susceptible to wildfire damage.
  • Protect your windows: Use dual-pane thermal glass and window shutters to reduce the risk of wildfires igniting and entering your home.
  • Install a roof sprinkler system: Use a roof sprinkler system to hydrate your home’s exterior and reduce the chances of ignition.

By taking the time to implement a few precautionary measures inside and outside of your home, you can help prevent your home from being destroyed by wildfires.