Roughly three dozen pieces of California legislation are directly related to wildfire, and while those bills should hold much interest for the insurance community, there are other bills making their rounds that should draw a great deal of concern.
So far 2,369 bills have been introduced in state Legislature this year, according to John Norwood of Norwood Associates, an industry lobbyist who also represents the California Insurance Wholesalers Association.
Norwood said he’s by encouraged by all the attention California’s wildfires are getting.
A federal judge overseeing Pacific Gas & Electric’s criminal probation said Tuesday that he is considering requiring the utility to be more aggressive about turning off its electricity lines near tall trees, a plan that could double the number of power outages for some Northern California counties over the next decade.
The proposal outlined during a two-hour court hearing is the latest effort to prevent the utility’s equipment from sparking more deadly wildfires by reducing the likelihood that trees could fall into the utility’s long-neglected electrical equipment. U.S. District Judge William Alsup is overseeing PG&E’s safety precautions as part of the utility’s criminal probation after its natural gas lines blew up a suburban neighborhood south of San Francisco in 2010.
A Northern California wildfire that killed four people and destroyed more than 200 buildings last year was sparked when tree branches came into contact with Pacific Gas & Electric power lines, officials said in a report.
Investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection seized equipment belonging to PG&E in the weeks after the Zogg Fire tore through rural communities in Shasta and Tehama counties last September and October.
Sonoma County officials say they will add artificial intelligence technology to help fight wildfires with a 24-7 monitor to track fire outbreaks.
The technology will be added to the county’s network of wildfire detection cameras that monitor California’s backcountry to spot the first outbreak of flames. Many of the cameras are affixed to existing radio communication towers.
“This early detection technology will provide emergency managers and first responders with round-the-clock monitoring, a sophisticated addition we are excited to add to our alert and warning toolkit,” Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said.
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Monday announced a new partnership between the California Department of Insurance and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Administration to establish statewide standards for home and community hardening aimed at reducing wildfire risk, protecting lives and property and making insurance available and affordable to residents and businesses.
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is alerting residents to review their current insurance policies in the midst of a forecast of winter weather bringing the possibility of floods, mudslides, debris flows, and other disasters to recent wildfire burn areas throughout the state.
Lara issued a formal notice to insurance companies reminding them of their duty to cover damage from any future mudslide or similar disaster that is caused by recent wildfires that weakened hillsides.
Predictive modelers told California regulators on Thursday that the state’s antiquated rules for calculating wildfire risk when setting property insurance rates discourage innovative mitigation measures that could ultimately reduce losses.
Nancy P. Watkins, a principal and consulting actuary for Milliman, said during a webcast on “home hardening” hosted by the state Department of Insurance that California is one of only three states that doesn’t allow insurers to use catastrophe modeling to determine wildfire risk. Rates must be based on historical losses.
Watkins said that is a “very simple” method of ratemaking. “It’s kind of like expecting the Rocky Mountains to be flat because we just drove through Kansas and Missouri,” she said.
Powerful gusts pushed flames from a wildfire through Southern California canyons on Thursday, one of several blazes that burned near homes and forced residents to flee amid elevated fire risk for most of the region that prompted utilities to cut off power to hundreds of thousands.
The biggest blaze began late Wednesday as a house fire in Orange County’s Silverado Canyon, where gusts topped 70 mph.
“When crews arrived it was a fully engulfed house and the winds were extremely strong and they pushed flames into the vegetation,” said Colleen Windsor, a spokeswoman for the county’s Fire Authority.
The California Public Utilities Commission has raised concerns over certain deficiencies that it says could affect PG&E Corp.’s ability to provide safe and reliable service, the power provider disclosed in a regulatory filing on Wednesday.
The regulator, in a letter dated Tuesday, said it will require remediation on specific issues identified in the San Francisco-based utility’s wildfire mitigation plan progress reports.
Harvest season in Northern California’s wine country is what dream weddings are made of: ripe grapevines and golden sunsets provide ceremonies an alluring backdrop that every year draws millions of visitors.
But harvest season now overlaps with fire season as wildfires, too, have become a yearly reality in the region.
In three of the past four years, major wildfires driven by a changing climate have devastated parts of the world-famous region, leaving little doubt that it’s vulnerable to smoke, flames and blackouts in the fall.