Insurance commissioner announces Firewise discount mandates at South Tahoe event
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced Saturday, that by the end of the year all insurance companies will be mandated to offer a discount to insured members who create defensible space and adhere to guidelines outlined by Firewise USA, a program that encourages wildfire risk mitigation.
Lara, Sen. Marie Alvarado-Gil, South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue Chief Jim Drennan, SLTFR Marshall Kim George and Al Tahoe Firewise community leader Dianne Rees presented a united front in a round table discussion format while captivating an audience of over 100 people. While the event was cut short due to conflicting schedules, a lot of information was covered regarding home hardening, defensible space, and new regulations regarding insurance carrier responsibilities.
City Manager Joe Irvin, Mayor Christi Creegan, Mayor Pro Tem Cody Bass and city council member Scott Robbins were in attendance amongst community members at large who “started the conversation,” according to Rees, the event’s lead organizer.
The irony of the snow falling on National Wildfire Preparedness Day was not lost on Lara, who told the Tribune while it’s snowing one day the region could very well see wildfire the next.
“The new insurance pricing and transparency regulation came from the feedback I received since being elected in 2019 from the counties suffering from wildfire,” Lara said and added the new regulations will help to ensure discounts for those already doing wildfire mitigation, transparency on wildfire risk scores as well as provide homeowners an opportunity to appeal scores.
Lara’s regulation is the first in the nation requiring insurance companies to provide discounts to consumers under the Safer from Wildfires framework created by the California Department of Insurance in partnership with state emergency preparedness agencies, according to the CDI website.
During a question and answer period, Lara responded to questions from the community, one of which focused assertions that the California Fair Plan is not so fair after all.
The intention of the Fair Plan considered, “California’s insurance safety net” by the CDI is to provide equal access to basic fire insurance when access to coverage in the traditional market is not available through no fault of the property owner, according to the website.
The plan was the topic of an investigatory hearing that Lara presided over. The goal of the hearing was to hear from the public to inform the future of the Fair Plan to better meet the needs of California consumers.
“Insurance until now haven’t really helped you prepare and now we’re requiring insurance companies to do their part,” said Deputy Insurance Commissioner, Communications and Press Relations, Michael Soller, who added that while risks have changed, people have not and it’s possible to mitigate risks.
“What went unmentioned during the nearly two hour event is that every house sold within the high severity zone can’t go into escrow without a property inspection, that is huge,” Rees told the Tribune and added that the new regulations will have a ripple effect.
It was with the intention of having multiple meetings that the Al Tahoe community leader began planning the round table event. With the amount of people in attendance and number of questions submitted both public officials agreed to review questions left unanswered. Rees also hopes they will return for a second event.
Getting prepared for fire season is more than raking up your own yard, It’s really about relationships,” Drennan told the Tribune on Saturday.
Rees agreed and has since submitted an application for a grant which, if received, would be used to help Al Tahoe community members who can’t afford to pay someone to do the defensible space work and can’t physically do it themselves.
“We’re keeping the money in the community, we’re gonna really make a difference,” Rees said.
Despite the slow transition from winter into spring, South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue is gearing up for defensible space inspections.
According to George, defensible space inspection can be scheduled on the city website, cityofslt.us/fire for insurance purposes, educational purposes or real estate sales, she added, tahoelivingwithfire.com is a great resource for all things defensible space, specific to Lake Tahoe.
SLTFR would like to remind the community to watch for red flag days where no open flames whatsoever are allowed throughout the city due to high fire danger. Red flag feather flags are also set up outside each fire station.
Information from the Saturday event will be available during the 6th annual Wildfire Expo that takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at South Tahoe Middle School.
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