California to require insurance discounts for property owners who reduce wildfire risk, among other things. The law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year offers state and federal tax benefits for homeowners who reduce the risk of wildfire, reducing insurance premiums, and may even help the state save money on fire suppression, but the bill has stirred some controversy because it requires insurers to pay an additional $4,000 or 50 percent of the bill if the policyholder doesn’t reduce fire risk on at least 20 percent of their owned property, a provision that critics say may drive away potential homeowners who aren’t inclined to take on wildfire risk. Here’s how the bill would apply.
Fire Department The Department of Forestry & Fire Protection is responsible for ensuring that California fire management is “safe and effective,” and that fire risks are managed to minimize the probability and effect of catastrophic fire events. The department manages California’s emergency preparedness system and is mandated to implement the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard for State and National Emergency Operations Plan: Emergency Preparedness. This standard requires that the fire service has two minimum levels of preparedness: fire/hydrant control capabilities, and plans and procedures for suppression.
It’s not the first time the state has tried to apply federal wildfire-mitigation standards to homeowners. In 2010, the Legislature and the State Fire Marshal signed a bill that would have required property owners to obtain permits and pay for firebreaks even if they were not required to reduce fire hazard risks by law. That bill stalled in Congress and died altogether last year, but it was the first step to help residents make their homes safer from any wildfire.
The current bill would apply to three broad categories of property: public and private property (residential, industrial, commercial and agricultural), and federal lands “that have not been acquired by the appropriate federal government, pursuant to law, or under a contract with the appropriate federal government pursuant to law.” There’s a loophole in the bill that lets homeowners avoid some of the state’s requirements, according to Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Sacramento), chairman of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources.
The bill defines wildfire hazard as “any significant damage, loss or