Northern California fires reach $9 billion in insured losses

At the Larkfield home of Richard Vignone, his son and a few PG&E workers look to see what was salvageable after the Tubbs fire on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. (KENT PORTER/ PD)

BILL SWINDELL,

The fires that ravaged the North Bay in October have resulted in about $9 billion in insurance claims, according to new data released Wednesday by the state Insurance Department, triple the figure from about a month ago.

The lion’s share of claims from the fires — almost $7.5 billion — are from Sonoma County, including $6.9 billion in losses for residential property. There were 4,785 county policyholder claims filed for a total loss of property, while another 9,901 filed for partial losses or smoke damage.

The North Coast blazes that started Oct. 8 have become the costliest wildfires in American history in terms of insured loss. The 1991 Oakland Hills fire had previously been the costliest with $1.7 billion in insured losses at the time, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a national industry trade organization that compiles claims data. The costliest disaster in American history remains Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with $41.1 billion in insured losses.

“These numbers not only represent staggering losses to tens of thousands of Californians,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement. “The October wildfires that devastated whole communities and tragically cost 44 people their lives have now proven to be the most destructive and deadliest in our state’s history.”

Napa County had more than $1.2 billion in overall insured losses with 447 houses destroyed and another 2,023 properties with partial claims. Mendocino County had $181 million in losses, while Lake County suffered $52 million in insured claims.

The fires also resulted in a significant loss of vehicles, with almost 4,900 claims filed for personal and commercial cars and trucks in the region. In Sonoma County, 4,173 policyholders filed insurance claims on their vehicles, resulting in almost $70 million in damages.

More than $3 billion in claims have been paid to date by insurers, according to Jones, including almost $2.5 billion in Sonoma County. About a third of insured claims have been paid to homeowner losses in the county so far, according to the data.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.