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Losses from Northern California wildfires top $3 billion; 14,000 homes destroyed or damaged

The wildfires that ravaged wine country this month caused at least $3 billion in insured losses, officials said Tuesday.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced the staggering number and warned it will likely grow as more claims are reported by insurers.

Santa Rosa alone lost 5% of its housing in California’s most destructive wildfire, and some residents have questioned whether they will be able to afford to stay in a region known for its tight housing market and high prices.

More than 40 people died in the fires, and Jones’ office said more than 14,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Here is a breakdown:

  • 10,016 residential properties that are partial losses
  • 4,712 residential properties that are total losses
  • 728 commercial property losses, which includes commercial businesses and multifamily buildings (apartments) with four or more units
  • Over 3,200 personal auto losses
  • 91 commercial vehicle losses
  • 153 farm or agriculture equipment losses
  • 111 watercraft

“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.

An army of federal crews in white protective suits descended on Sonoma and Napa counties and beyond seeking to identify and remove the most hazardous waste left behind in the destruction: propane tanks, oil drums, toxic garage chemicals.

The toxic sweep is the first step of the massive post-fire cleanup — the largest ever undertaken in California — that is expected to take place early next year, state and federal officials said.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state officials will survey all the homes, schools and buildings that were reduced to ash before any debris is removed in Napa and Sonoma counties. Then special teams will move in to remove hazardous waste and test each site for toxic substances.

That cleanup must be completed before residents or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may clear what remains on each of the burned-out lots.

richard.winton@latimes.com

shelby.grad@latimes.com


UPDATES:

3:35 p.m. This article was updated with a breakdown of fire losses.

This article was originally published at 3:20 p.m.

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