Two California wildfires cause nearly $2 billion in damage

Two massive wildfires that burned up parts of Northern California, killing six people and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people, did nearly $2 billion in damage, according to a global insurance company.

A report by London-based Aon Benfield found a wildfire in Lake County caused at least $1.5 billion in damage while damage from another fire in Calaveras and Amador counties was estimated at $450 million.

The two fires, started days apart in September, burned more than 200 square miles and killed six people. The fire in Lake County, about 90 miles north of San Francisco, destroyed nearly 2,000 structures, including some 1,300 homes.

Aon associate director Steve Bowen said Thursday that the estimates could increase, even as the state enters what is considered peak fire season.

“These are tentative numbers,” he said. “I would not be surprised if these get adjusted upward.”

The California Department of Insurance does not have damage estimates, but spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid said Aon has a reputable record. “They’re probably pretty close; it’s hard to say,” she said.

According to the state insurance department, Lake County residents have filed claims for about 750 homes that were destroyed and nearly 2,100 homes that were damaged. The fire in Calaveras and Amador counties, about 125 miles northeast of San Francisco, did not do as much damage to structures.

Combined, victims of the two fires have filed claims for more than 1,000 homes that were destroyed and more than 3,200 homes that were damaged.

Fire officials have yet to determine a cause in either fire.

On Wednesday, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced that most insurers have agreed to expedite fire claims, for example, by advancing money for living expenses as people search for paperwork to back up claims.

The Aon report shows about $925 million of the Lake County damage is covered by insurance, making it the fifth-costliest wildfire for insured losses in U.S. and in California history, Bowen said.

The Oakland Hills Fire of 1991 was California’s most expensive, with damage covered by insurance costing $2.9 billion when adjusted for inflation.CaliforniaWildfires

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