The catastrophic wildfires that ripped through Northern California this summer have so far caused $845 million in insured losses, according to state officials.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced the figure Thursday, warning that the total is likely to grow as companies continue to process claims for homes burned in the Mendocino Complex and Carr fires.
The fires destroyed or damaged more than 8,800 homes and 329 businesses, Jones said. An estimated 800 vehicles were also damaged in the fires, which killed nine people.
So far, this year’s insurance losses pale in comparison to those seen in 2017, which the California Department of Insurance now estimates at $12.8 billion — up from the $12-billion figure the agency previously reported.
Jones told reporters in San Francisco that, historically, the majority of California’s most destructive wildfires — 17 out of 20 — started after Sept. 1. Therefore, he said, residents should remain vigilant.
“The worst may well be yet to come, based on past history and experience,” the commissioner said.
The state also released updated numbers on January’s mudslides in Montecito, which killed 21 people. An estimated 1,749 homes and 347 businesses were completely or partially lost to the mudslides, Jones said.
The Mendocino Complex fire that tore through Mendocino, Lake, Colusa and Glenn counties in late July and early August was the biggest fire ever recorded in California, burning more than 459,000 acres and killing one firefighter. The Carr fire, first reported July 23, killed eight people and burned nearly 230,000 acres across Trinity and Shasta counties, making it the seventh-largest California wildfire on record.
Jones cautioned that homeowners hit by 2018’s fires should be wary of anyone attempting to assist them in recovering their losses.
“This is a time when scam artists will come into your area to take advantage,” he said. Jones encouraged fire survivors to contact the Department of Insurance’s consumer hotline at 1-800-927-4357 before hiring a professional claims handler.
The commissioner also urged homeowners who live near heavily forested or high-brush areas to take inventory of their belongings, which could make recouping losses much easier in the event of a catastrophic wildfire.