California Wildfire Insurance Claims Hit $11.4B in November 2018

California residents who suffered losses due to the November 2018 wildfires filed insurance claims totaling $11.4 billion, according to estimates from state insurance officials. The estimate represents a 25% increase from the estimate in December.

The Camp Fire, one of the more devastating wildfires, claimed 86 lives and destroyed more than 13,000 homes. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is facing dozens of lawsuits, including one recently filed by Butte County, over alleged negligence. Plaintiffs blame the utility for the devastating wildfire.

PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier in the month and is facing billions of dollars in liabilities. The utility’s transmission lines are suspected of igniting the Camp Fire, but the investigation into the fire’s cause is still ongoing.

Butte County, which includes the devastated town of Paradise, took the brunt of the damage from the Camp Fire. Claims from that fire alone total $8.4 billion.

Two other wildfires in Southern California, the Hill and Woolsey Fires, resulted in nearly $3 billion in damage claims.

In total, all of the 2018 California wildfires resulted in damage claims of $12.4 billion.

PG&E released a statement on its website:

“We are continuing to provide safe and reliable electric and natural gas service. We are not ‘going out of business,’ and we expect that there will be no disruption to the services you expect from us as a result of the Chapter 11 process.

“Our extensive restoration and rebuilding efforts to help communities recover from the devastating wildfires are continuing. We are committed to these efforts and safety remains our most important responsibility.”

“PG&E is also working very hard to address future wildfire risks and continuing to make critical investments in our systems and infrastructure to further improve safety.”

Under California law, utility companies are entirely liable for damage from wildfires ignited by their equipment, even if the company isn’t found negligent.

California insurers are prepared to pay out all claims regardless of what happens to PG&E.