What to Know About California Wildfire Insurance

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Wildfires occur more often in California than in any other U.S. state. In 2021, the Golden State saw 8,835 wildfires, according to data from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. If you’re a California resident, it’s a good idea to have home insurance that covers wildfire risks.

Here’s what you need to know about home insurance and wildfires in California:

Does my home insurance cover wildfires?

Most standard home insurance policies cover wildfire damage to your home. But if you live in a high-risk fire zone in California, an insurer may deny coverage.

Review your policy to see if your insurance carrier excludes wildfire damage. You can find home insurance exclusions in the endorsements, definitions, and conditions sections of your policy. If you have any questions, contact your provider.

Basic home insurance usually includes various types of coverages that can help you rebuild your home or replace your personal belongings if a fire or other covered event damages your home.

Dwelling coverage

Dwelling coverage pays for the cost of rebuilding your home and attached structures — such as an attached garage or patio deck — after a fire. Since rebuilding your home can be expensive, you should purchase enough dwelling coverage to replace your home in the event a wildfire destroys it.

If you need more protection for your home, you can purchase an extended replacement cost endorsement, or rider. This endorsement can extend your dwelling coverage by 10% to 50%, and help pay for higher-than-expected rebuilding costs.

Personal property coverage

Personal property coverage pays to repair or replace your personal belongings that get damaged during a wildfire, like your furniture, clothing, and electronics. Your personal property coverage limit is generally 50% to 70% of your dwelling coverage.

Tip: It’s a good idea to create an inventory of your belongings. That way, you can assess whether you need to increase or decrease your personal property coverage limits.

Other structures coverage

Other structures coverage helps pay to repair or replace unattached structures on your property — such as detached garages, fences, and gazebos — if they get damaged in a wildfire. The coverage limit is usually 10% of your dwelling coverage.

Good to know: Most home insurance policies cover swimming pools, but you may need to increase your coverage limit or purchase swimming pool insurance to ensure you have the right amount of protection in place.

Additional living expenses coverage

This coverage, also known as loss of use coverage, covers your temporary living expenses if you can’t live in your home after a fire. It pays for various expenses like hotel stays, laundry, parking, and even meals.

Additional living expenses coverage limits are usually 20% of your dwelling coverage. But you can generally pay extra for more coverage.

Compare home insurance quotes from multiple providers on the Credible marketplace, which includes insurance services by Young Alfred. In just a few minutes, you can find a homeowners policy that fits your needs.

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Does condo insurance cover wildfires?

Your individual condo insurance policy usually covers fire damage to the inside walls of your residence. It also helps you pay to repair or replace your personal belongings that are damaged as a result of a wildfire.

If a wildfire damages a common area in your complex, the condo association’s master insurance policy will cover the repair costs.

Does renters insurance cover wildfires?

Renters insurance should help you pay for wildfire damage to your personal belongings. It should also cover your additional living expenses if you have to relocate while the property is being worked on.

How to get insurance that covers wildfires

Most home insurance carriers offer policies that cover wildfire damage. However, if you live in a high-risk fire zone, some insurers may deny coverage for wildfires.

If you’re having trouble finding an insurance provider in California that covers wildfire damage, consider these options:

California FAIR Plan

The FAIR Plan is a state-operated program designed to provide insurance coverage for homeowners who live in high-risk areas. If you’re having trouble finding wildfire coverage, you may be able to get basic fire insurance through California’s FAIR Plan.

But this plan comes with some disadvantages. For example, it’s often more expensive than home insurance on the traditional market, and it only provides limited coverage.

Tip: If you’re interested in getting insurance from the FAIR Plan, California’s Department of Insurance recommends that you contact a broker that’s licensed to sell FAIR Plan insurance. You can find a broker on the California FAIR Plan website.

Surplus line carrier

You can also purchase home insurance that covers wildfires through a surplus or excess line insurer. These carriers provide coverage for consumers that can’t find insurance on the standard market due to higher risks. The downside is that rates are usually more expensive.

Good to know: Aside from being more expensive, purchasing home insurance through a surplus carrier instead of the standard market can be riskier. For instance, if a surplus line carrier goes bankrupt, there’s no guarantee you’ll receive a payout for covered damages.

By comparison, if you buy insurance through a standard insurer, a state fund usually pays claims if your insurance carrier goes bankrupt.

What else can I do to protect my home from wildfires?

You can take the following steps to minimize the risk of wildfire damage to your home:

  • Clear vegetation. Plants, bushes, and other forms of vegetation located too close to your home can fuel fires. To minimize the chance of a fire spreading quickly, FEMA recommends keeping vegetation within 30 feet of your home to a minimum.
  • Keep combustibles far away. Make sure to store combustibles, like firewood or gas grills, far away from your home. You should keep firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home, and grills or propane tanks at least 15 feet away from your home, according to FEMA.
  • Install fire-resistant roofing and siding. If your roof is made of flammable roofing materials (such as wood, shingle, or shake), replace them with fire-resistant materials, such as slate, fiberglass shingles, concrete tiles, or clay. The same goes for siding. Opt for a noncombustible material like metal or fiber cement, if possible.
  • Cover openings. Cover openings to your home, including soffit vents, attic vents, and louvers with one-quarter-inch wire mesh to prevent burning materials from entering.

Wildfire insurance FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about California wildfire insurance.

What do I do if a wildfire damages my car?

File a claim with your auto insurance provider. If you have comprehensive car insurance, your policy should cover wildfire damage to your car once you’ve paid your deductible.

How much wildfire insurance do I need in California?

You should purchase enough home insurance coverage to fully rebuild your home and replace your personal belongings in case a wildfire or other covered event destroys it.

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Disclaimer: All insurance-related services are offered through Young Alfred.

About the author

Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown is a personal finance writer, owner of the Peerless Money Mentor blog, and a contributor to Credible. He has written for major publications such as Forbes Advisor, Business Insider, and Rocket Mortgage.

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