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By: Zach Moura
The California Insurance Commissioner has issued a consumer alert as the Dixie Fire in Northern California becomes the first in California’s history to “burn its way clear across” the Sierra Nevada mountain range, according to Cal Fire Director Thom Porter. The Dixie Fire has been burning for a month and has grown to more than 660,000 acres burned, while the new Caldor File east of Sacramento has grown to over 62,000 acres in just five days.
Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a consumer alert advising residents impacted by the wildfires that they may have homeowner or renter insurance to help with evacuation and relocation costs under Additional Living Expenses coverage, known as ALE. ALE coverage can include, under certain circumstances, some of the costs for items such as food and housing, furniture rental, relocation or storage, or extra transportation expenses.
The alert advises insureds to “contact their insurance agent or insurance company to find out what their renters’ or homeowners’ policy covers and other resources that may be available to them while the mandatory evacuation orders are in place.”
With the Caldor Fire at 0% contained and the Dixie Fire at only 35% containment, and several months remaining in the 2021 California fire season, insurers can expect a significant number of property damage claims arising from this year’s fires, including ALE claims. A large number of claims carry the risk of a correspondingly large number of litigated claims. The majority of coverage issues litigated in commercial and homeowners fire losses concern valuation of the replaced (or partly replaced) property, including the extent to which a property has been damaged as opposed to destroyed.
Insurers will certainly be paying close attention to further fire-related developments across California as the fire season proceeds.