Fire Safety and California FAIR Plan

fire hydrant and flowers

Because Nevada, Placer, Plumas and Sierra Counties have experienced low rainfall, the brush tends to dry out earlier in the summer. Fire Season used to begin in October, but now has become a concern as early as May.

CAL FIRE, just this year, responded to nearly 300 wildfires in California, which burned over 700 acres. Living with fire danger in the Sierra Nevada Mountains can be a real concern for homeowners. In normal years, CAL FIRE had maybe 50 fires that might burn only 100 acres.

However, an article on Redfin, a great source for real estate market information, describes how high fire risk homes sell for $120,000 more than low risk homes! These homes sell faster and at higher prices because to many buyers, what is more urgent than avoiding fire, is finding homes with more space in a peaceful environment as more people are able to work from home.

Ultimately, living in these areas can be managed by having a prepared plan of action, evacuation supplies and following best practices in keeping your home fire safe.

Defensible Space

CAL FIRE has outlined best practices and educates the public about defensible space. All dwellings should have at least 100 feet of cleared brush and foliage around the property. Homeowners should remove any needles and leaves from their roofs, eaves and rain gutters.

Additionally, they recommend trimming all branches six feet from the ground. They encourage designing a landscape of fire resistant and drought tolerant plants that require little water. Cut all branches at least 10 feet from the roof and chimney. If mowing and trimming, do so before 10am and not on hot, windy days.

Wood piles and flammable material should be a minimum of 30 feet from any dwelling. The idea is to create a defensible area around your home where nothing can burn.

For more information on Defensible Space, click here.

California FAIR Plan

When homeowners are unable to find property insurance for their dwelling, they can turn to the California FAIR Plan. Many insurance companies in California have dropped fire coverage and for many residents, this is their only alternative.

The California FAIR Plan Association was established to meet the needs of California homeowners unable to find insurance in the traditional marketplace. The FAIR Plan is not a state agency, nor is it a public entity. There is no public or taxpayer funding. 

They have been ensuring high risk properties since 1968. Originally established during the fires of the 60’s, they still provide a type of coverage that can be a homeowner’s last resort.

The FAIR Plan is a syndicated fire insurance pool comprised of all insurers licensed to conduct property/casualty business in California. It issues policies on behalf of its member companies. Each member company participates in the profits, losses and expenses of the Plan in direct proportion to its market share of business written in the state.

FAIR Plan Premiums

Coverage is meant as a safety net and they encourage homeowners to find coverage elsewhere, when and if it becomes available. It is important to note that fire coverage in fire prone areas is not cheap.

Fair Plan premiums can range between $2000 and $5000 per year. Factors such as how remote your property is from fire stations or fire hydrants will increase your premium. California has different fire threat zones that will determine the premium.

When searching for available homes in the foothills of California or in the Sierra Nevada mountains, it is important to ask about the current fire insurance premium. This will be a premium IN ADDITION to your normal homeowner insurance coverage.

When you have a regular homeowner policy and a FAIR Plan policy, it is called a 'wrap policy.' Sometimes the seller has this current premium information. Other times, you will need to get a quote during your due diligence process or buyer inspection period.

I have been representing buyers and sellers in this region for many years. There are many nuances in buying and selling in the Lake Tahoe basin. Contact me today for more information.