Chris Bipes, his wife, Kim, and his neighbor, Craig Lowry, dig through the ashes of his home near Coffey Park in hopes of finding valuables such as his coin collection and other items on Monday in Santa Rosa. Randy Pench The Sacramento Bee
Chris Bipes, his wife, Kim, and his neighbor, Craig Lowry, dig through the ashes of his home near Coffey Park in hopes of finding valuables such as his coin collection and other items on Monday in Santa Rosa. Randy Pench The Sacramento Bee

Fires

Wine country wildfire costs now top $9 billion, costliest in California history

By Dale Kasler

dkasler@sacbee.com

December 06, 2017 12:15 PM

October’s wine country wildfires are now the costliest in California history, with insurance claims pegged at $9.4 billion.

The latest tally Wednesday from the state Insurance Department means the wine country fires have vaulted past the Oakland Hills fire of 1991 as the most expensive in California fire history. Oakland Hills generated about $2.8 billion in claims, when adjusted for inflation.

The figure was released as wildfires continued to burn in Southern California, including a new blaze that erupted early Wednesday in the posh Bel Air section of Los Angeles. Nearly 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate, and almost 200 homes have been destroyed.

The wine country fires, which began Oct. 8, killed 44 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

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The vast majority of the wine country claims originated in Sonoma County, where the bulk of the deaths occurred and losses now total $6.9 billion. A total of 14,686 claims have been filed by residents and businesses in Sonoma County. Another 2,470 claims have been filed in Napa County.

“The October wildfires that devastated whole communities and tragically cost 44 people their lives have now proven to be the most destructive and deadliest in our state’s history,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones in a prepared statement.

The figures include claims from smaller fires that burned in early October in Yuba, Butte and Mendocino counties.

Of the $9.4 billion in claims, nearly $3.2 billion has been paid out so far by insurers.

The October fires remain under investigation, although Cal Fire and the Public Utilities Commission are probing whether power lines owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. were a contributing factor. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the utility.

A state and federal program is offering free debris removal to residents whose homes were destroyed in the wine country fires. California Governor's Office of Emergency ServicesFacebook

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler