California insurance rules change

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said this week that insurance companies in the state will soon be allowed to factor in climate risks including wildfires in their insurance rates — if they increase their underwriting in at-risk areas to wean consumers off state-funded coverage.

Reuters reported that in the last year or two, seven of the state’s top 12 insurers have paused or restricted new business, including State Farm and Liberty Mutual, and the government’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan, intended as an insurer of last resort, has grown to a 3 percent share of California’s market.

Dixie Fire at Greenville, CA, 2021
Firefighters on the Dixie Fire at Greenville, CA, 2021. Jay Walter.

“We are at a major crossroads on insurance after multiple years of wildfires and storms intensified by the threat of climate change,” Lara said.

Unlike other states, according to an ABC News report, California does not allow insurance companies to consider current or future risks when setting the rate for an insurance policy. Companies can consider only what’s happened on a property in the past to set the price.

And insurers say that restriction makes it difficult to accurately price the risk.

On Thursday, Lara said California will write new rules to let insurers look to the future when setting their rates. “Modernizing our insurance market is not going to be easy or happen overnight,” he said. “We are in really unchartered territory and we must make difficult choices when the world is changing rapidly.”

The rule change is not all good news — it could mean higher rates for homeowners who have already seen dramatic increases. Eight insurance companies in California have requested increases of at least 20 percent this year, according to the California Department of Insurance.

Harvey Rosenfield, the author of a 1988 ballot proposition that regulates insurance rates, said Lara’s announcement “will dramatically increase homeowner and renter insurance bills by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.”

El comisionado de Seguros de California, Ricardo Lara, dijo esta semana que a las compañías de seguros del estado pronto se les permitirá tener en cuenta los riesgos climáticos, incluidos los incendios forestales, en sus tarifas de seguro, si aumentan su suscripción en áreas de riesgo para que los consumidores dejen de recibir cobertura financiada por el estado.

Reuters informó que en el último año o dos, siete de las 12 principales aseguradoras del estado han detenido o restringido nuevos negocios, incluyendo State Farm y Liberty Mutual, y el Plan de Acceso Justo a los Requisitos de Seguro (FAIR, por sus siglas en inglés) del gobierno, pensado como una aseguradora del último año. resort, ha crecido hasta alcanzar una cuota del 3 por ciento del mercado de California.

Northeast News: RxFire, highway closure, and drone warnings

April in New Jersey was dry and windy enough for numerous Red Flag Warnings this past week, but the state Forest Fire Service still pulled off a prescribed burn and contained a wildfire.

NJ Forest Fire Service firefighters Log Swamp Fire 20130416
New Jersey Forest Fire Service firefighters patrol the line on the Log Swamp Fire. Photo: NJ Forest Fire Service.

Another New Jersey fire, the Kanouse Fire, burned 1000 acres in northern New Jersey, leading to evacuations — of five homes and 100+ animals from the Echo Lake Stables. Embers were reported to have started fires a half mile across Echo Lake, with the fire staffed by multiple agencies.

Though fire danger has been high to very high statewide in recent days, fire restrictions have been lifted in two of the three statewide zones as today’s calmer winds reduced fire risk.

Today’s date also marks 60 years since New Jersey’s “Black Saturday” on April 20, 1963, when 30-50 mph winds, humidity in the low 20s and temperatures in the low 80s fanned the rapid spread of 31 major fires that burned 190,000 acres, destroyed or damaged 400 structures, and evacuated 2500 residents.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, after a week with the entire state in high fire danger, the southern and central zones are now in high fire danger and the rest of the state is classed as moderate.

This past weekend, according to Lehigh Valley Live, the 4000-acre Crystal Lake Fire east of Mountain Top led to the closure of 20 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between the Poconos and Wyoming Valley interchanges.

Also during the weekend, a drone-airspace intrusion on the Peter’s Mountain Fire in Dauphin County was reported by WGAL-TV.  The report reminded people that interfering with firefighting operations on public lands, per the Federal Aviation Administration, can carry a 12-month prison term, and drone pilots who interfere with wildfire suppression could also receive a fine of more than $37,000.

Chile: Wildfires intensify, disaster impacts expand

Satellite analyses and Twitter reports indicate a rapid growth of disastrous wildfires in south-central Chile yesterday (February 3) and overnight.

In the past 24 hours, satellite-based estimates based on NASA FIRMS data  indicate that the largest fire spread 80 kilometers (50 miles) west and northwest, impacting an area of nearly 100,000 hectares (230,000 acres). The fires appear to have spread from Renaico northwest toward the Pacific Coast city of Lota, while burning past Santa Juana and likely crossing north over the Biobío River.

In this NASA FIRMS map, the oldest yellow heat signatures are 24 hours or earlier, the most recent are red.

24-hour fire spread of largest fire in the Santa Juana are of Chile on Feb. 4, 2023. NASA FIRMS.
24-hour fire growth along a 80 km/50 mile line of the largest fire in the Santa Juana are of Chile on Feb. 4, 2023. NASA FIRMS.

A larger map shows 24-hour fire detections for the affected regions of Biobío and La Araucanía. (And a reminder, as the FIRMS mapping tool, these heat signatures may overestimate fire size and activity, in part due to smoke columns and other factors.)

Overview of active fires in south-central Chile for the past 24 hours. Feb. 4, 2023. NASA FIRMS.
Overview of active fires in south-central Chile for the past 24 hours. Feb. 4, 2023. NASA FIRMS.

The fires detected by satellites are being confirmed via social media updates. As @HotshotWake reported via Twitter …

Also from February 3, @zoom_earth shared a satellite stream of fires and smoke…

The Associated Press reported that the death toll as of February 4 has risen to 22 with more than 500 injured. The state of catastrophe has expanded to include the La Araucanía region, which is south of Ñuble and Biobío regions that were already in a catastrophe declaration.

Moccasin Hill Fire more destructive than initial estimates

When it burned through a rural southern Oregon subdivision on Sunday, the Moccasin Hill fire destroyed many more homes than fire officials initially reported.

Officials announced Wednesday that the fire destroyed 33 structures, up from the initial estimate of 20.

The Moccasin Hill fire ignited on Sunday, and prompted hundreds of people to evacuate from a rural subdivision outside of Sprague River, Eugene-based TV station KVAL reported Wednesday. As the fire spread rapidly over the weekend, officials first estimated that it destroyed six homes and 14 outbuildings.

But on Wednesday officials discovered an additional 17 destroyed homes, and some 16 destroyed outbuildings within the subdivision.


The structures were all damaged on Sunday, when the fire first broke out. As of Wednesday, the fire had burned 2,500 acres. Crews have established a full containment line around the fire but are working toward the center to put out hot spots.

The cause of this fire is still under investigation.

Oregon, like much of the West Coast, has been drought-stricken for months. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that Klamath County, the Moccasin Hill fire is burning, is almost entirely in a severe drought.

As we reported on Tuesday,  more than 100 wildfires ignited in an Oregon lightning storm on Sunday.

Dozer accident injures one on California’s Monticello Fire

A person has been hospitalized after a bulldozer overturned while digging line on the Monticello Fire, the latest growing blaze in Northern California that ignited on the Fourth of July.

The dozer overturned around 1:30 p.m. PDT on July 6, while cutting line on rugged terrain along the fire’s northern perimeter, local media reported. 

The person was taken “as a precaution” to Kaiser Permanente’s Vacaville Hospital Trauma Center nearby. CALFire had issued no further updates on injuries as of Monday afternoon.

The Monticello Fire started around 9:30 p.m. PDT on Friday, just outside the town of Winters, on the southeast shore of Lake Berryessa. It grew rapidly to nearly 7,000 acres by Monday morning, and had forced the shut down of portions of California State Highway 128. The fire also triggered evacuations of several neighborhoods and is currently threatening around 40 homes.

2014 Fire Season: Least amount of acreage burned in 10 years

Although thousands of fires have ignited across the country in 2014, to-date this year’s fires have burned fewer acres than other fire seasons since 2004.

As of July 3, fires have burned 909,848 acres across the United States, according to fire statistics released by the National Interagency Fire Center last week.

That’s about half of the total acres burned by July 3, 2013. It’s also the least amount of acreage burned by July 3 since 2004.

By July, fires typically consume more than one million acres, and in some cases two or three million.

  • The number of active fires as of July 3 is 26,684. That’s about average since 2004.
  • Since 2004 the “largest” fire season was 2011 when 4,859,621 acres had burned by July 3.
  • There are 12 active “large” fires on NIFC’s radar this month. Most are in California and Nevada.
  • As of July 3, six new large fires were reported.