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La Cañada Evacuees Worry About Fire Insurance Coverage

Catherine Cloutier |
August 31, 2009 | 7:40 a.m. PDT


(Creative Commons Licensed)

The La Cañada Flintridge fire doubled in size Sunday night and is now affecting 85,700 acres. More than 20 homes have been destroyed so far, and two firefighters have died.

The Los Angeles County Fire Department said the fire is only 5 percent contained, and now residents in a high-risk brush zone are worried about how limited their "last resort" insurance coverage will be if they lose their houses.

While evacuation orders were lifted for some residents, mandatory evacuations are still in effect in parts of Acton, La Cañada Flintridge, Altadena and the Littlerock resort area. Precautionary evacuations have occurred at Camp Williams and Highway 39 is closed.

By Saturday morning La Cañada resident Jackie Smallcomb had already evacuated, after packing her belongings a few days before the evacuation order came.

Despite her foresight to plan ahead, she still worried about the fate of her home and her insurance coverage under the California FAIR plan. Smallcomb, who remembers a fire in 1983 that threatened the area, said she had few options as many insurance companies avoid covering such a high-risk brush zone.

"I feel anxious, I guess," she said over the weekend.

The state government created the California FAIR plan, or Fair Access to Insurance Requirements, in 1968 after the brush fires and riots of the 1960's made it difficult for some people to buy fire insurance, according to the state insurance department.

The FAIR Plan, an insurance industry-sponsored property insurer, offers a standard fire insurance policy for both the structure and contents. It is a basic property policy that has coverage limitations, the department says on its web site.

"As the insurer of last resort, the FAIR Plan should only be used after a diligent search for coverage in the voluntary market," it adds, urging property owners to also consider private insurers to supplement a FAIR Plan policy.



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