State insurance commissioner signs order to protect homeowners’ insurance policies

TWAIN HARTE, Calif. (KTXL) — In response to the wildfires that broke out this year…

TWAIN HARTE, Calif. (KTXL) — In response to the wildfires that broke out this year up and down the state, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara signed an order protecting hundreds of thousands of Californians’ insurance policies.

While homeowners and local leaders are grateful to have that safety net, the moratorium only lasts a year, and many are worried about the future.

When the Washington Fire broke out in Sonora this past summer, Betsy Hurst told FOX40 she was ready to evacuate if she got the call. 

“I packed my suitcase. I packed food. I packed our travel trailer and I left them by the front door,” Hurst recalled. “It didn’t matter how far you were from it. It seemed like you could feel ashes falling on your property.”

The threat of wildfire is a way of life that comes at a high cost for people living in rural counties, like Tuolumne.

“I’ve seen them anywhere from $1,800 for the year to over $3,500. I’ve heard people say that they’ve gotten quotes of $6,000,” Hurst said.

Home and fire insurance comes at a premium and homeowners are at the mercy of companies who can cancel their policies or decline to renew them. 

“I actually received a non-renewal on a vacation cabin that I own, and it’s been over a month and I have not received a quote yet. I’ve tried two different companies,” Hurst said.

Tuolumne County Commissioner Anaiah Kirk said while a recent moratorium signed by Lara keeps homeowners’ policies protected, it’s not a long-term fix. 

“I know for myself I have to have several different types of insurance. The fair plan is just like the basic and then I have to get some other wraparounds,” Kirk explained. “We need some ideas, and we need some proposals because, right now, just kicking the can down the road isn’t going to solve the problem.”

The moratorium now includes homeowners’ insurance policies in 115 ZIP codes near wildfire disaster areas.

“Sigh of relief, yeah, sigh of relief, and you know, keeping my fingers crossed for everyone else,” Hurst said.

Kirk said he recently sent a letter to the insurance commissioner proposing alternative solutions.

“Instead of just funding the liability and it just growing and growing, let’s put that money back on the ground in the community so we can actually mitigate and stop these wildfires,” Kirk said.

With the moratorium, Hurst knows she’s covered for another year, giving her some peace of mind, but she said more needs to be done. 

“I’m hoping that other insurance companies, and of course Commissioner Lara, continue to work on establishing fairer plans. Even though we have the California FAIR Plan. We need something fairer for homeowners,” Hurst said.

For those who ant to see if their ZIP code is included in the moratorium, tap or click here.