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Millions of Californians face losing insurance on homes in wildlife-prone areas

Forest fires are predicted to be harsher and longer than last year

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 23 June 2021 10:01 BST

At least 2.1 million residents in California are facing the looming threat of losing their insurance cover on homes as the state’s moratorium on companies dropping coverage for homeowners in wildfire-prone areas would come to an end in November.

Last year, Californians living in the fire-prone territory were given temporary relief from losing their insurance covers for another year as historic wildfires ravaged their homes and burnt down millions of acres of land.

The country’s most populated state’s expiry of moratorium in November has come as a double whammy for residents as wildfire season has started early this time and expected to last much longer, according to California’s nonprofit organisation Cal Matters.

This week, firefighters scrambled to contain a wildfire that erupted near Big Sur in the state’s central coast as the blaze raged with dry weather conditions.

In Monterey county, the willow fire has already burnt more than 2,800 acres of land since Thursday, forcing residents to evacuate. The blaze threatened to engulf the country’s oldest Japanese Buddhist Soto Zen monasteries, forcing evacuation from the nearby campgrounds.

According to a forecast by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), the forest fires are predicted to be harsher and longer than last year’s deadly fire due to drought, increasingly late monsoons and extreme heat conditions.

Wildfires are now reaching high elevations, in the mountainous areas that were previously too wet to burn, according to the new study by journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on 24 May.

Scientists indicated that the climate change and drought situation in the West are drying up the high-elevation landscapes, making them prone to burning at rates unprecedented in recent fire history.

The wildfires creeping up to the hilly regions would have a hazardous impact on the downstream water supplies, plants and wildlife.

The yearly fires have exacerbated the crisis in California’s insurance market with insurance companies inflating the prices for coverage to double or triple the rate as people looked for a replacement, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The real estate developers have also been increasingly looking to build homes in the areas which fall under “fire hazard severity zones” at inflated prices due to pent up demand, according to reports.

Lake County supervisor Moke Simon said: “Developing more housing supply is an area of profound concern, and we also need thriving businesses to employ local residents and strengthen our economy. Neither of these will happen if we adopt a perspective that wildfire-prone areas of the state should cease all development.”

Meanwhile, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, is mulling to pay off the unpaid rent of low-income tenants after the job market was hit hard by the pandemic. The ambitious $5.2bn plan will benefit at least 900,000 estimated renters as the federal eviction protections are due to expire at the end of June.

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