The wildfires that ravaged parts of California in October caused at least $3 billion in insured losses, a total of 14 720 damaged or destroyed homes, and nearly 3 200 personal vehicle losses, officials said Tuesday. As of November 2, the death toll stands at 43.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Tuesday, October 31 the new total of insured losses from the October wildfires in California now tops $3 billion. This is a three-fold increase in just two weeks. However, the number is still expected to climb, according to California Department of Insurance officials.
"As shocking as $3 billion in insured losses are, the number is sure to grow, as more claims are coming," Jones said. "The insured losses only tell part of the tragic story of the October fires. We must remember that 43 people lost their lives and behind every insurance claim is someone who has lost their home, their business, and their precious memories. It will take years for these communities to recover and rebuild."
The latest report notes the widespread destruction resulted in damaging or destroying more than 14 700 homes, 728 businesses, and more than 3 600 private autos, commercials vehicles, and agricultural equipment and watercraft.
Here is a breakdown:
- 10 016 residential properties that are partial losses
- 4 712 residential properties that are total losses
- 728 commercial property losses, which includes commercial businesses and multi-family (apartments) with four or more units
- Over 3 200 personal auto losses
- 91 commercial vehicle losses
- 153 farm or agriculture equipment losses
- 111 watercraft
The overall number of fatalities from the so-called North Bay fires rose to 43 after a 17-year-old girl who was badly burned in the fires earlier this month died at a hospital, officials said on Monday, October 30.
This marked the greatest loss of life from a single wildfire event in California. It surpasses by far the 29 deaths from the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles, previously the deadliest fire in the history of the state, and 25 fatalities from a firestorm that swept Oakland Hills in 1991.
Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa, Sonoma County after wildfire - October 9, 2017. Credit: California Highway Patrol
Commissioner Jones visited the wildfire zones throughout northern California and met with residents in the local assistance centers where he heard first-hand the harrowing stories of loss from victims who escaped with only minutes to spare. Jones took extraordinary steps to assist wildfire victims by dispatching detectives from the department's law enforcement team to educate residents about how to avoid being victimized by scam artists who prey on vulnerable residents after disasters and sending consumer services teams to every local assistance center to personally meet with consumers and help them begin the claims process and answer insurance-related questions. As of October 29, the department's consumer services team assisted 1,163 individuals across the state, the majority of which were in Northern California.
Earlier this month, Jones also issued a notice to insurers asking them to expedite claims, by cutting through red tape and doing all they can do to help policyholders who are likely to have little or no documentation that insurers normally require.
Jones also signed a declaration of an emergency, which allows the insurers to tap out-of-state claims adjusters from their other offices, which effectively expands their claims adjuster workforce. When processing tens of thousands of claims, this is an important step in increasing the claims processing capacity for insurers and helping speed the recovery and rebuilding process.
Featured image: Santa Rosa, California after devastating wildfires - October 2017. Credit: California Department of Insurance