Industry Issues | ERM & Emerging Risks

California Wildfire Update

With numerous major wildfires burning in California, PCI is actively engaging with policymakers, members, and the media, serving as a resource on the claims process and the long-term impact of these events on the insurance marketplace. The Carr Fire in Redding has killed seven people, including two fire fighters, and damaged or destroyed approximately 1,800 homes and businesses. Meanwhile, PCI continues to work with industry partners on a comprehensive campaign to stop California utilities companies from avoiding liability from their role in recent devastating wildfires.

PCI has provided policymakers with claims recovery and financial preparednessmaterials, and is working directly with the California Department of Insurance to answer questions from consumers about insurance coverage. We recently provided members with a Claims Guide to inform adjusters of California's rules and regulations.

Additionally, PCI staff attended Commissioner Jones' meeting with insurers and their catastrophe teams at the Carr Fire Local Assistance Center to help answer consumers' questions and highlight that insurers are in the field, helping policyholders file claims as quickly as possible. 

PCI is underscoring with the media how insurers help communities rebuild and recover. We are reinforcing that insurers plan and prepare for catastrophes year-round, and are ready to handle these disasters. PCI also is running social media campaigns to tell the industry's story in platforms that directly communicate with consumers. These social media campaign and financial preparedness digital ads are running in other wildfire-prone states such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

While the wildfire response and recovery efforts dominate news coverage, California legislators are currently convening a conference committee to consider changing the inverse condemnation liability standard for utilities.

PCI is a leading partner in the Stop the Utility Bailout coalition, which is opposing any changes to liability standards. Governor Jerry Brown recently introduced a proposal to the conference committee that would undo inverse condemnation, saying that liability laws should be changed to keep the utilities from going bankrupt or to prevent the state from meeting its clean air goals. Brown also said that attorneys and insurers are fighting liability changes to benefit themselves.  


Our coalition is mounting an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign, which includes hiring additional lobbyists and running an extensive paid media campaign in targeted districts. The targeted media campaign includes radio ads, billboards, paid digital, and social media ads. We have garnered extensive positive media and editorial page coverage. This issue will be a major battle during the final weeks of the California Legislative session as demonstrated by this Washington Post story. The California Legislature adjourns on August 31. 

As we utilize our full range of resources and tactics to defend and retain inverse condemnation, PCI will continue communicating with legislators, regulators, and media about the industry's ongoing response to policyholders during this year's destructive wildfire season.  



David A. Sampson