Two deadly Northern California wildfires that scorched more than 140,000 acres, ravaged homes and devoured firefighting resources in September have amounted to at least $1 billion in insured losses so far, according to a state insurance department report.
The Valley and Butte fires took a devastating toll on the region as flames chewed through homes, farms, vehicles and personal belongings, and eventually gave rise to a large number of claims, the California Department of Insurance reported. The preliminary $1 billion loss estimate did not include damage to roads and utilities, so the total figure for insured losses is likely to grow.
"A year-round fire season is California's new reality," Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement. "Residents and communities, especially those in high-risk fire areas, must take precautions now before the next devastating wildfire strikes."
In Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, the Valley fire consumed 1,958 structures, resulting in $700 million in insured losses.
Because the blaze destroyed many homes and buildings, it became the third most damaging wildfire in California's history.
Four people were killed during the 76,067-acre blaze, which started Sept. 12 in southern Lake County and lasted a little more than a month.
The 70,868-acre Butte fire ran through grasslands and timber in California's Gold Country – Amador and Calaveras counties. The blaze is the seventh most destructive wildfire in the state's history, destroying 818 structures and resulting in $300 million in insured losses.
Two deaths were attributed to the Butte fire. Mark McCloud, 66, and Owen Goldsmith, 82, were residents of Mountain Ranch who refused to evacuate.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said it may have been started when a power line came into contact with a tree.
Insurers are still processing claims and have paid out more than $500 million. They have received 5,600 claims and are expected to pay out an additional $500 million after all applications have been processed.
"The Valley and Butte fires were sober reminders of the dangers residents can face in rural areas of the state," Jones said.
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