FORESTHILL, Calif. (AP) — California on Thursday temporarily banned insurance companies from dropping off customers in areas hit by recent wildfires, a day after evacuation orders were lifted for residents near a two-week-old blaze, the biggest on record in the state this year.
Several days of sporadic rain helped firefighters contain 60% of the mosquito fire in the Sierra foothills, about 177 kilometers northeast of San Francisco. At least 78 homes and other structures have been destroyed since flames erupted on September 6 and charred forested areas in Placer and El Dorado counties.
Sheriff’s officials in both counties announced Wednesday that they would be lifting the latest evacuation order that kept about 11,000 people out of their homes during the height of the fire.
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara on Thursday invoked a law aimed at protecting homeowners in the wildfire-stricken state who say they are being squeezed out of the commercial insurance market.
Lara ordered insurance companies to keep home insurance for a year for Californians living near one of several major wildfires that have been burning across the state in recent weeks.
The Insurance Department estimates the moratorium will affect policies covering about 236,000 people in parts of Placer, El Dorado and Riverside counties.
“Wildfires are devastating, even if you haven’t lost your home, so giving people breathing space after a disaster is absolutely crucial. This is not the time to have to look for insurance,” Lara said in a statement.
The law was implemented in 2019 when more than 15 major wildfires burned homes across the state.
Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. In the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive fires in its history.
Full containment of the 120-square-mile (310-square-kilometer) mosquito fire is expected around October 15.
Last week, the blaze surpassed the size of the largest blaze of 2022 to date – the McKinney Fire – although this season so far has seen only a fraction of last year’s wildfire activity.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.