Wildfires Force Insurance Companies to Change, Update Coverage Plans

NBC Universal, Inc.

The Dixie Fire in Plumas County is now at nearly half a million acres and is on track to be one of the largest fires in California history.

But the records it will break are only a year old -- that's how bad wildfires have become in California.

"We're facing unprecedented fire behavior," Santa Clara County Fire Department Capt. Justin Stockman said.

Stockman just got a crew back from the frontlines of the Dixie Fire.

In the South Bay, the Alexander family knows too well the fear and uncertainty those in the fire's path are feeling.

"We actually had to be evacuated twice so the first time we went to a friend's house, so we were lucky," said Tony Alexander, an SCU Fire evacuee.

Alexander's home was spared by the SCU Fire last August. And if there is a next time at least one company - Safeco Insurance - now said it has a new plan to help.

The company is adding a no-cost benefit for policy holders, called the wildfire response benefit. Here is some of what they will do ahead of a large fire:

  • They will cut weeds around your property to create a defensible space.
  • The carrier will also bring in a temporary sprinkler system to protect your home if you're in the evacuation zone.
  • And they will apply firefighting gel or foam to your home to try to insulate it from the fire.

Safeco used to offer the policy only to what are called "high value homes." But now it's offering the free benefit to all policy holders, and other companies are starting to offer similar benefits.

The county fire department said it relies on homeowners to do their part in creating defensible space and are glad insurance companies are thinking outside the box.

"That's a good investment by your insurance company and at a certain point it becomes a sound financial decision for them to come in and clear the vegetation on your behalf, absolutely," Stockman said.

Contact Us