Subscribe

Official: Northern California fires have become costliest in US history

Linda and Jason Miller spot an item of interest in the burned home in Coffey Park, Friday Oct. 20, 2017 in Santa Rosa. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2017

BILL SWINDELL,

Damage from the recent North Coast fires has totaled more than $3 billion to date, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Tuesday. That figure would make them the costliest wildfires in American history.

The total of insured losses from Sonoma County alone has totaled $2.8 billion so far, which surpasses the 1991 Oakland Hills fire with $1.7 billion in costs at the time, according to the Insurance Information Institute, a national industry trade group that compiles claims data.

Even when adjusting for inflation over the years, the losses from the Oakland fire would be $2.7 billion in 2016 dollars, according to the institute, less than Sonoma County’s losses from the blazes that erupted on Oct. 8. Forty-three people were killed in the regional fires.

Adding insured losses from the Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Solano county fires that erupted at the same time push the overall damage from the North Coast fires to $3.2 billion, according to Jones. Fifteen major insurers provided the claims data to his department to lead to these totals:

In Sonoma County, 3,963 residential structures suffered a total loss, while 7,776 had a partial loss. In Napa County, 392 homeowners lost their property, while 1,222 had a partial loss. In Mendocino County, 143 insured residences were destroyed, while 304 suffered partial damage from the Redwood Valley fire.

Overall, 4,573 residences suffered total damage across the North Bay, while 9,568 homes had a partial loss.

“As shocking as $3 billion in insured losses are, the number is sure to grow, as more claims are coming,” Jones said in a statement. “It will take years for these communities to recover and rebuild.”

Automobile owners also suffered in the disaster aftermath, as 3,058 drivers in the region reported a loss on their personal car, according to Jones. In Sonoma County, 2,659 policyholders reported car damage, resulting in $23.2 million in losses.

Businesses were affected as well, as 713 commercial property owners filed fire damage claims, with 590 in Sonoma County. The losses include the gutting of the Fountaingrove Inn and Hilton Sonoma Wine Country hotels, the Paradise Ridge Winery and many small businesses, resulting in $132 million in losses so far in the county.

In another attempt to quantify the loss to the region’s economy, the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University announced Tuesday it will undertake a study on the immediate and long-term effects on the industry as well as wine tourism.

The industry suffered mostly minor damage from the blazes as about 10 wineries have reported significant damage and the vast majority of vineyards were unscathed. The biggest effect will be on worker housing. “A lot of employees lost their homes,” said Jon Moramarco, a wine industry consultant.

Check back later for more details.