As Wildfire Risk Increases, Home Insurance Is Harder to Find


By: Sophie Quinton

But since 2014, more than 15,000 homes in medium or extreme fire-risk areas have turned to the state’s lender of last resort, the California Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan, which insurance companies created to serve people unable to find coverage elsewhere. Premiums also are rising in high-risk areas, Kincaid said.

Scientists expect wildfire danger to increase as the climate changes, according to the latest federal climate report. Meanwhile, more people than ever live in forested areas, with millions of homes threatened in California, Colorado and Texas, according to Verisk Analytics, a company that models wildfire risk for insurers.

Insurance companies now use satellite data to assess fire risk at a given location. Verisk’s FireLine tool, for instance, weighs factors such as topography, vegetation, wind patterns and accessibility — because homes are safer if it’s easier for firefighters to get there.

When a potential customer calls Truett Forrest, a State Farm agent in the mountain town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, he plugs their address into his company’s wildfire risk rating tool. The algorithm puts the home in one of three categories: no concerns, high risk or extreme risk.

Forrest estimates that about 10 to 15 percent of properties land in the third category, a classification that means State Farm won’t provide insurance.

“It doesn’t matter if they cut every tree and bush on their property, we would not insure it because of where it sits,” he said.

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