Insurance Claims for Latest California Wildfires Top $9 Billion

December 12, 2018 Updated: December 12, 2018

LOS ANGELES—Insurance claims from the recent spate of California wildfires, including one ranked as the most deadly and destructive in state history, have topped $9 billion and are expected to grow, the state insurance commissioner reported on Dec. 12.

The Fire, which erupted on Nov. 8 and quickly incinerated most of the Sierra foothills town of Paradise, about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco, has accounted for the bulk of the claims, just over $7 billion of the total.

That fire destroyed more than 18,500 structures, including nearly 14,000 homes, in and around Paradise, and killed 86 people, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

The casualty toll stands as the greatest loss of life from a single wildfire on record in California and the highest from any U.S. wildfire during the past century.

A pair of smaller blazes that broke out at about the same time in Southern California, the Woolsey, and Hill fires, killed three people and destroyed some 1,500 structures and forced the evacuation of thousands.

The insurance commissioner put preliminary insurance claims from those two fires combined at more than $2 billion, bringing the total for all three of last month’s blazes to $9.05 billion.

The tally reflects losses for residential and commercial coverage, as well as for policies covering motor vehicles, agriculture, machinery, and other assets, the agency said.

“The devastating wildfires of 2018 were the deadliest and most destructive wildfire catastrophes in California’s history,” Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.

Jones said the figures would be updated as insurers report further data. The totals so far are in line with private risk-analysis projections weeks ago estimating that insured losses from the fires would range from $9 billion to $13 billion.

The numbers released on Dec. 12 stem from almost 40,000 separate claims, more than a fourth of which represent total losses. Most of those, 10,564, were for personal residential property, the commissioner said.


By Steve Gorman