Officials weigh in on fire mitigation, new regulations
Following the worst fire season on record, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is taking aim at high insurance costs for residents in areas threatened by wildfires.
“With more Californians rolling up their sleeves and reaching into their own pockets to protect their homes and businesses, insurance pricing must reflect their efforts,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in a news release. “Holding insurance companies accountable for accurately rating wildfire risk in the premiums they charge Californians will help save lives and reduce losses. My new regulations will help encourage a competitive insurance market for all by putting safety first and driving down costs for consumers.”
At a meeting during last week’s Forest Futures Salon, the change in regulations, which is planned to go into effect this summer, was addressed by fire officials from around the region, along with officials from the California Department of Insurance.
California Department of Insurance worker Peter Meza said previous regulations allowed for insurance companies to not renew fire insurance policies for nearly any reason. Additionally, the department or public hasn’t been privy to providers’ metrics for establishing pricing in high fire risk areas.
Under the new regulations, Meza said fire risk models will be given to the department, giving policy buyers and the community the opportunity to take measures to lower insurance costs.
Meza outlined three areas that will be key in determining pricing. Homes are recommended to have Class A fire-rated roofs; an ember resistant area around the structure; and vegetation should be cleared around houses, along with other defensible space measures. From there, regulations focus on the greater community, fire risk assessments, evacuation plans, and partnerships between the community and its fire districts.
NORTHSTAR FIRE DEPARTMENT
Local ordinances at Northstar already go beyond the state standard, according to Fire Chief Sean Bailey.
Homes in the area, recognized as a Firewise community since 2010, are inspected at least every three years. Measure U — unrelated to the upcoming ballot measure in June — was passed by voters in the area in November and provides $450,000 annually for fuels management by taxing property owners $219. Bailey said an additional private donation of $157,000 was also given to the department.
Through the funding, Bailey said the entirety of the district will be treated within the next 10 years.
TRUCKEE FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
Voters in Truckee also approved of a November measure to increase funding for wildfire prevention.
Measure T tax property owners $179 annually and will generate roughly $4 million for a community wildfire prevention fund that is managed by Truckee Fire Protection District.
Programs will include defensible space inspections, green waste disposal, forest management and fuels reduction.
Truckee Fire will offer free defensible space inspections beginning in June. Inspections can be scheduled by going to http://www.truckeefire.org/dspace.
During inspections, a defensible space specialist will walk properties with homeowners and educate them on defensible space and home hardening.
For green waste, the fund will generate revenue for free curbside pickup and haul away. Truckee Fire will also reimburse up to $75 toward the cost of a request for green waste dumpsters, which are requested through Tahoe Truckee Sierra Disposal.
Additionally, a home-hardening rebate program will also roll out, likely in 2023, to help property owners cover the costs of upgrading buildings
NORTH TAHOE FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
Erin Holland, public information officer for the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, said funding for programs that tax voters approved of in November is secure at this time.
“It is something that we do keep an eye on, but because we have other sources of grant funding that are funding this type of work right now, we didn’t want to impose that burden on our residents until we had no other source,” said Holland.
The district’s free chipping and defensible space inspection program for residents will begin in June and run through October.
Additionally, Placer County will have a green waste disposal day on June 18 in Tahoe Vista, Olympic Valley, Tahoe City and Homewood.
Ultimately, work being done will help protect the Truckee-Tahoe area, and under new regulations should offer consumer discounts for insurance and bring a level of transparency toward pricing versus actions taken by communities to reduce fire risk.
Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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