Losses Rise as Calif. Fires Keep Burning

October 28, 2003

As California wildfires in San Diego, Riverside, and Ventura counties continue to burn, numbers rose as to the amount of homes destroyed, acres damaged, and lives lost.

The insurance industry has yet to put a number to the damages. Some news reporting agencies offered preliminary estimates, but the guesses are premature, according to Peter Moraga, communications specialist for the Insurance Information network of California (IINC).

“These are very irresponsible guesses at this point,” Moraga told Insurance Journal. Until claim adjusters are able to get close to the damaged areas to examine the losses, he explained, there cannot be an accurate estimate.

“The conditions are there that exist to make it catastrophic,” he said. Moraga expects adjusters to be able to get close to the sites as early as the afternoon, but warned that estimates would be “very preliminary.”

In San Diego County, the Cedar Fire had destroyed an estimated 368 homes, charring over 200,000 acres. The Paradise Fire has destroyed 60 homes and over 30,000 acres have been burned. The Otay Fire has burned over 65,000 acres of open land in Otay Mesa, and there have been no reports of structural damage. The fire is at 17 percent containment, and is expected to be fully contained by Oct. 30. The Camp Pendleton Fire has been reported at 85 percent containment.

In Ventura County, the 90,000 acre Simi Valley fire continued to burn as firefighters fought off a second blaze, the Piru fire, in the Fillmore area, devastating another 50,000 acres. Twelve structures were reported to be destroyed.

In San Bernardino County, the Old and Grand Prix fires continued to burn as one, claiming over 76,000 acres, 450 structures and two lives.

Several other wildfires sprouted up around the counties as firefighters battled the most intense, with resources being stretched thin.

Claims centers have been fully staffed as insurers prepare to assist those who lost their homes. Some companies such as Allstate placed a temporary moratorium on writing new homeowners policies in the state, according to a report by CBS.MarketWatch.com.

Gov. Davis, who declared a state of emergency in the four counties, dispatched 135 additional fire trucks from Arizona and Nevada to San Diego County after President Bush declared southern California an official disaster area.

Total homes destroyed in the region exceeded 1,000.

Editor’s note: Information and statistics compiled from the San Diego Union Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

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