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Insurance Claims From California’s Wildfire At $9 Billion

State and federal officials are currently removing hazardous household materials from the damaged properties.

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California, Insurance
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones talks about the costs of recent wildfires during a news conference in Sacramento, California. VOA

Insurance claims from last month’s California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state’s insurance commissioner announced Wednesday.

About $7 billion in claims are from the Camp Fire that destroyed the Northern California city of Paradise and killed at least 86 people, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in at least a century. The rest is from the Woolsey and Hill fires in Southern California.

Collectively, the fires destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 structures, with the vast majority in and around Paradise. On Tuesday, state and federal authorities estimated it will cost at least $3 billion just to clear debris.

“As the claims get perfected, as individuals get access to their former homes and neighborhoods, as they dialogue with their insurance companies and share more information about the scope of their loss, we expect these numbers to rise,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said of the $9 billion estimate.

California, Wildfire, Insurance
Jennifer Christensen sorts through items found in a safe at the remains of her home Dec. 5, 2018, in Paradise, California. VOA

Over 28,000 claims

There are more than 28,000 claims for residential personal property, nearly 2,000 from commercial property and 9,400 in auto and other claims for the fires.

That’s well above the number of claims filed following a series of fires that tore through Northern California’s wine country last year. Losses from those fires were initially pegged at $3.3 billion but eventually grew to $10 billion.

While the Camp Fire destroyed about double the number of structures as the 2017 fires, home values in Butte County are far lower than those in Sonoma County. That’s part of the reason total claims may seem low compared to the 2017 figures, Jones said. Median home values in Sonoma County are more than double those in Butte.

Jones advised home owners to be cautious of “fraudsters and scam artists” trying to take advantage of vulnerable communities.

California, Fire prevention, wildfires, Insurance, rain
A controlled burn ignites pine trees on the “Rough Fire” — which closed camps east of Fresno at Hume Lake as it crossed Highway 180 — in the Sequoia National Forest in California, Aug. 21, 2015. VOA

He also said its time for California to start rethinking how and if it builds in fire-prone areas. Ken Pimlott, outgoing director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told The Associated Press this week the state should consider banning construction in vulnerable areas.

Jones said local governments may not be fully considering the long-term impacts of building in areas at high risk of fire, floods and rising sea levels.

“That’s going to be a hard conversation. Everybody likes to build new, people obviously want to rebuild their communities,” he said. “We’re in a new era where these risks are so bad I think we’ve really got to take a look at how we’re making these decisions.”

Cause of fire remains unknown

Authorities are still determining what caused the fire.

Pacific Gas & Electric told regulators that a high-voltage power line malfunctioned at the time and spot that investigators believe the fire started on Nov. 8.

California, Fire prevention, wildfires, Insurance
Joe Balog, a workforce management director at Travelers, examines weather, social media and other data from recent natural disasters inside the company’s catastrophe response command center in Windsor, Connecticut. VOA

The San Francisco-based utility told the California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday that several miles away workers found a fallen power pole and equipment with bullet holes.

86 deaths linked to fire

A number of fire victims have filed lawsuits alleging that PG&E’s equipment started the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people.

The cleanup costs for last month’s fires will far surpass the record expense of $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said the state will manage cleanup contracts this time. Last year, hundreds of Northern California homeowners complained that contractors paid by the ton hauled away too much dirt and damaged unbroken driveways, sidewalks and pipes.

The state OES spent millions repairing that damage.

California, School
Trees reflect in a swimming pool outside Erica Hail’s Paradise, Calif., home, which burned during the Camp Fire. VOA

Lesson learned

Ghilarducci said the state OES will hire auditors and monitors to watch over debris removal in hopes of cutting down on the number of over-eager contractors.

“We learned a great number of things,” last year, Ghilarducci said.

Also Read: Insurance Company’s Response To Wildfire Claims Better Due to Technology

He said the U.S. Corps of Engineers was asked to lead the effort last year because state resources were stretched thin after responding to more than a dozen wildfires. This year, he said state officials can manage the cleanup and costs will be shared among state, federal and local authorities.

Cleanup is expected to begin in January and take about a year to complete. State and federal officials are currently removing hazardous household materials from the damaged properties. (VOA)

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Americans Tend to Rely on Social Media for News which is often Unreliable: Report

Those who rely on social media and peers for news, on the other hand, don't see those platforms as reliable yet still choose to get their news from these sources

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Social Media
The findings of a research suggest that perceived reliability is not the only factor that drives what Americans choose as their go-to News sources on Social Media. Pixabay

Owing to lack of time and competing demands, one-third of Americans rely on news platforms they acknowledge are less reliable, mainly social media and peers, says a new report.

The other two-thirds of the public consider their primary news sources trustworthy, mainly print news and broadcast television, according to the report from California-based non-profit RAND Corporation.

“A lack of time and competing demands may explain why a third of Americans turn to news sources they deem less reliable, which suggests improving the quality of news content or teaching people how to ‘better consume’ news isn’t enough to address ‘Truth Decay,'” said Jennifer Kavanagh, senior political scientist and co-author of the report.

“Media companies and other news providers may need to provide more easily accessible and digestible ways for individuals to consume high quality investigative journalism”.

“Truth Decay” is a phenomenon defined as diminishing reliance on facts, data and analysis in public life.

The report draws from a national survey of 2,543 Americans to examine how reliability, demographics and political partisanship factor into news choices and how often people seek out differing viewpoints in the news.

About 44 per cent of respondents reported that news is as reliable now as in the past, while 41 per cent said it has become less reliable and 15 per cent – mostly women, racial and ethnic minorities and those without college degrees – said it is more reliable.

Social Media
Owing to lack of time and competing demands, one-third of Americans rely on News platforms they acknowledge are less reliable, mainly Social Media and peers, says a new report. Pixabay

Respondents who lean on print and broadcast platforms were more likely to deem them reliable.

Those who rely on social media and peers for news, on the other hand, don’t see those platforms as reliable yet still choose to get their news from these sources.

“The findings suggest that perceived reliability is not the only factor that drives what Americans choose as their go-to news sources,” said Michael Pollard, a sociologist and lead author of the report.
“Despite acknowledging that there are more reliable sources for news, people with demands on their time may be limited to using less reliable platforms.”

Asked whether they ever seek out alternate viewpoints when catching up on the news, 54 per cent said they “sometimes” do, 20 percent said, “always or almost always,” 17 per cent said “infrequently,” and 9 percent said, “never or almost never.”

The report also identified the four most common combinations of news media types consumed by Americans: print publications and broadcast television, online, radio, and social media and peers.

Those who are college-educated were less likely to get their news from social media and peers, instead opting for radio and online sources.

Social Media
Media companies and other News providers may need to provide more easily accessible and digestible ways for individuals to consume high quality investigative journalism, especially on Social Media. Pixabay

Those with less than a college education were more likely to report “never or almost never” seeking out news with alternate viewpoints.

“Those who are married were three times more likely than singles to rate their peers as the most reliable source for news,” said the report.

ALSO READ: Here’s how you can Appear More Competent Through your Clothing

Unmarried people were more likely than married people to report they “always or almost always” seek out sources with differing views. (IANS)