Fire Insurance Pros and Cons

Check insurance coverage before the blaze

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    When the wildfire starts coming toward Bob and Laura Gookin in San Diego's east county, all they can do is hope the destruction passes by their property.

    "We are just sitting here looking at the wind blowing," said Bob Gookin, "It becomes a way of life, a scary way of life."

    Fire Insurance Pros and Cons

    [DGO] Fire Insurance Pros and Cons
    With wildfire season in full swing, NBC 7 reporter Consumer Bob looks at the pros and cons of fire insurance for homes in high risk areas. (Published Sunday, Sep 30, 2012)

    People like Bob and Laura can't control the direction of the wildfires but they can control what happens if they face the worst.  For people living in high risk fire areas, homeowners insurance is critical.  But it isn't cheap.

    "All insurance is based on risk," said Pete Moraga with the Insurance Information Network of California, "and the higher the risk the more you are going to pay."

    More than two million homes in California are exposed to high wildfire danger according to Moraga.  That is more high risk homes than all of Colorado.

    "Nearly 15 percent of the 13.5 million homes in California face severe wildfire risk," said Candysse Miller, the executive director of the Insurance Information Network.

    The key is coverage. But looking back at past wildfires you find that many people are not properly covered.

    Homeowners should not only insure the value of their home but what it would cost to rebuild the home, including items inside the house. Rebuilding costs go up approximately 2 percent a year according to Pete Moraga. He also points out that after major wildfires where there is a large amount of loss that construction prices go up even higher because of a shortage of labor and materials.

    But can homeowners in high risk areas get insurance?

    According to the Insurance Information Network, more than 98 percent of homes are insured by traditional insurance companies. For those who are unable to get insurance for their homes, the state of California has a "Fair Plan" which is made up of all California insurance companies, but the plan is limited and expensive.

    "They offer bare bones, minimum fire coverage for these homes in very high wildfire areas," said  Moraga.

    However homeowners can improve their chances of coverage and lower the price by following guidelines set by the insurance companies. That could include replacing a wood roof and creating a wide defensible space around the property.