Insurers Drop Policies in High-Fire Risk Areas

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MOUNTAIN RANCH — People in Mountain Ranch like the scenic views of Calaveras County but are paying the price for living in such a rural area.

About four years ago, the Butte Fire tore through the area, destroying homes and leaving homeowners whose properties survived with soaring insurance premiums.

“How people feel up here is we’re getting forced out. Whereas in the Bay Area, which you may have million-dollar homes but those homes are way less to insure, so it’s almost like they’re punishing us living up here in the foothills,” homeowner Martin Schaller said.

Some homeowners say they’re having trouble even finding fire coverage.

Just this week, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara reported more than 340,000 rural homeowners were dropped by their insurance companies in the last four years.

“Our goal is to protect people and your home is a huge investment,” independent insurance broker Karen Yates said.

Yates helps homeowners across the state find fire insurance. She says it’s become harder in recent years to find coverage in areas of high fire danger because insurers have to protect themselves after being hit with billions of dollars in claims.

“It’s because those carriers have a heavy saturation in that area, and so they’re looking at those losses, they’re looking at those areas and saying, ‘We can’t continue to write this business. We don’t have enough funds to satisfy those losses if they were to happen,'” Yates told FOX40.

And for homeowners like Jeff Killeen, the options are pay up or leave — something that some of his neighbors have already done and something that he’s considering.

“We’re actually thinking about that now. Just take the chance. The house is small, it’s a 960-square-foot home,” he said. “It’s nothing extravagant and if we lost it, we could just build another one.”

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