Claims from California Summer Fires Top $845M, Commissioner Blames Climate Change

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones on Thursday announced that insured residential and commercial losses from the Carr and Mendocino Complex fires topped $845 million and are now counted among the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.

Jones also provided an update on the insured losses from the 2017 wildfires and 2018 Montecito mudslides and announced a new report that details how climate change contributes to wildfire losses.

“Our wildfire history tells the story of how our fire season has changed over the years from a four-month season to a year-round threat,” Jones said in a statement. “Over the past two decades, the frequency and severity of wildfires has increased and caused significant property damage and the tragic loss of life in the wildland-urban interface areas of the state. Even more troubling is that areas once considered not to be high risk are now being scorched by wildfires.”

Data collected by the department shows that the widespread destruction from the Carr and Mendocino Complex fires resulted in damaging or destroying more than 8,800 homes, 329 businesses, and more than 800 private autos, commercials vehicles, and other types of property.

More than 10,000 claims have been filed, totaling $845 million in insured losses.

According to CALFIRE, of the Top 20 Most Destructive California Wildfires, in terms of structures destroyed, 17 occurred after Sept. 1. Fire officials and experts warn that potentially the worst is yet to come.

Jones also released a new report, Trial by Fire: Managing Climate Risks Facing Insurers in the Golden State, which examines the challenges and opportunities associated with climate risk, climate change and insurance.

The report shows how climate change is a contributor to wildfire losses in California and discusses Jones’ efforts to get insurers to consider climate risk and the role insurance can play in addressing the three types of climate risks facing insurance companies: physical, transition and litigation risks.

The report was authored by Evan Mills, principal of Energy Associates, a California-based energy and environmental consultancy, the climate policy experts at UC Berkeley School of Law’s Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, and the California Department of Insurance.