Insurance Claims for California Wildfires Climb to $12 Billion

A man watches flames consume a residence as a wildfire rages in Ventura, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Ferocious winds in Southern California have whipped up explosive wildfires, burning a psychiatric hospital and scores of other structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

(CN) – Nearly $12 billion in insurance claims have been filed following the deadly wildfires that destroyed over 32,000 homes across California – now the costliest wildfire season in state history, according to the state insurance commissioner.

Deadly wildfires ravaged large swaths of California this past October and again in December. Homes, businesses and vehicles were destroyed and nearly 45,000 insurance claims have been filed. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced the totals on Wednesday.

“At nearly $12 billion in insured losses, these claim numbers are staggering and represent the costliest fires in California history,” said Jones. “The fires were unprecedented for their severity and disastrous consequences. Whole neighborhoods were wiped out, as wind-driven flames destroyed thousands of homes, upended tens of thousands of residents’ lives and tragically killed more than 45 people across the state.”

Insurance claims filed in December totaled almost $2 billion for the deadly fire that tore through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, according to Jones. Two people died in that blaze, including a firefighter.

Those financial totals do not include the losses related to mudslides in the Santa Barbara community of Montecito this month that  killed 21 people and destroyed more than 400 homes. The mudslides followed the Thomas Fire, the largest wildfire in the state’s history that burned 440 square miles of land.

More than 14 California counties were impacted by large wildfires in 2017. Central and northern portions of the state saw over 200 wildfires in October fanned by strong winds that destroyed 8,900 structures. According to state officials, 44 people died as a result of those fires.

Most insurance companies have agreed to honor a formal notice issued by the state that waived the requirement for policyholders to submit a detailed home inventory, so survivors would not have to create a detailed list of every item lost in the fires.

State officials are still assisting residents in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and encourage those affected by the disasters to file their claims soon.


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