California will again protect insurance policies in fire zones

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California on Thursday temporarily banned insurance companies from dropping off customers in areas affected by recent wildfires, a day after evacuation orders were lifted for residents near a two-week-old blaze that has become the largest in the state so far this year.

Several days of sporadic rain helped firefighters achieve 60% containment on the Mosquito Fire in the Sierra foothills about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco. At least 78 homes and other structures have been destroyed since the flames erupted Sept. 6 and charred forests in Placer and El Dorado counties.

Sheriff’s officials in both counties announced Wednesday they were lifting the last of evacuation orders that, at the height of the blaze, kept some 11,000 people from returning home.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Thursday invoked a law to protect homeowners in the state plagued by wildfires who say they are being forced out of the commercial insurance market.

Lara ordered insurance companies to preserve homeowners insurance for a year for Californians who live near one of several major wildfires that have burned in the state in recent weeks.

The Department of Insurance estimates the moratorium will affect policies covering about 236,000 people in parts of Placer, El Dorado and Riverside counties.

“Wildfires are devastating even if you haven’t lost your home, so giving people a break after a disaster is absolutely essential. Now is not the time to have to seek insurance,” Lara said in a statement.

The law was implemented in 2019, when more than 15 major wildfires burned homes across the state.

Scientists say climate change has made the West hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in its history.

Full containment of the 120 square mile (310 square kilometer) Mosquito Fire is expected around October 15.

Last week the blaze surpassed the size of the previous largest conflagration in 2022 – the McKinney Fire – although this season has seen a fraction of last year’s wildfire activity so far.

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