I spent part of the weekend catching up on a backlog of reading, including this document from the Governor's Wildfire Commission.
My stepdad's home insurance was canceled shortly after the Camp Fire, and his insurer also canceled policies of other people in our town. That started a conversation among my friends and family about how we cope with insurance, since our entire county is essentially a high risk wildfire zone. Some folks have just reduced their coverage level in order to make insurance affordable. Others are digging deeper to pay higher premiums. And of course getting cancelled is a big hassle while you are lining up a new insurance plan. My insurance company has signed me up for a risk mitigation plan, which I am guessing is a prelude to setting standards that I'll have to meet or else get cancelled. And almost everyone I know lives in an older home that doesn't meet the Chapter 7A requirements for building exterior wildfire exposure.
So what to do the experts say?
Generally the approach is that we have deal with the underlying risk, that it's not healthy to subsidize insurance to mask that risk. So there are not going to be any easy answers for me and my family and neighbors as we try to balance our finances and our safety.
Yet the number of people who live in the wildland urban interface (WUI) is very large and growing. According to the Hoover Institution, "In 2010, California had more people and homes located in the WUI than any other state in the continental United States—close to 4.5 million homes and 11 million people. The “fastest-growing land use type” in the continental United States, the WUI swelled by almost a thousand square miles in California alone between 1990 and 2000. Nationwide, sixty percent of all new home construction between 1990 and 2016 took place in the WUI. Across the country, the federal government owns or leases over 6,200 buildings located in the WUI, which President Obama sought to protect in 2016 by issuing a WUI building standard for federal facilities."