Environment & Science

Northern California fires cost $1B in insurance losses

The ruins of a home that burned in the Valley Fire are seen on September 15, 2015 in Middletown, California.  The Valley Fire is reported to be the third most destructive wildfire in state history based on total structures burned — destroying 1,958 structures and costing about $700 million in insurance losses.
The ruins of a home that burned in the Valley Fire are seen on September 15, 2015 in Middletown, California. The Valley Fire is reported to be the third most destructive wildfire in state history based on total structures burned — destroying 1,958 structures and costing about $700 million in insurance losses.
David McNew/Getty Images

Two wildfires that scorched nearly 150,000 acres in Northern California last fall were estimated to cost $1 billion in insurance losses.

The California Department of Insurance reported the steep price tag of the Valley and Butte fires in a statement on Monday.

The agency says that the Valley Fire is the third most destructive wildfire in state history based on total structures burned — destroying nearly 2,000 structures in Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties and costing about $700 million in insurance losses.

The Butte Fire, on the other hand, is the seventh most damaging fire with a little more than 800 structures destroyed in Amador and Calaveras counties and approximately $300 million in insurance losses.

The $1 billion cost doesn't include damages to community infrastructures and utilities.  

What was once a fire season of three to four months has become a year-round problem in California, the department's Nancy Kincaid told KPCC.

“It is a serious danger every single day,” said Kincaid. “It's important for homeowners to not only make sure they have insurance to protect themselves, but also [that] they do everything possible to mitigate the potential of fire damage on their property.”

Kincaid said that many homeowners are underinsured. She suggested that people get coverage based on what it would cost to rebuild their homes, not property value. She also advised against skimping on insurance to save money.

“That doesn’t help you when your home is destroyed,” she said.

Kincaid added that California residents having trouble finding insurance should call the agency at 1-800-927-435 for assistance.