The state of Oregon has a chance to continue its unique insurance policy that helps pay for fighting wildfires in big burning years – but at a higher premium and deductible.
Lloyd’s of London has offered to cover up to $25 million of wildfire costs this season, after the state pays a deductible of $50 million, The Bulletin newspaper of Bend reported Friday.
After last year’s tough season, the premium the Oregon Department of Forestry and private landowners would pay has nearly doubled: from $2 million to $3.75 million. The deductible is more than twice last year’s $20 million.
An answer is due in two weeks.
Oregon has been buying firefighting insurance for four decades, and it is the only state that does so.
Last year, the state spent $75.6 million on quelling large fires. Around the West, continuing drought has meant successive years of major wildfires, and expectations are high for another expensive year this season. Climate change has meant longer and hotter summers.
Tim Keith, administrator of the state’s Land Protection Fund, says the department and landowners are concerned about increasing costs, but they recognize that turning down the policy makes it uncertain they could get another in the future.
Private timberland owners pay a fee in their property taxes that contributes to the costs of the policy. Brad Chalfant, executive director of the Deschutes Land Trust, said the higher costs under the proposed policy are worth the potential high costs of not having insurance.
“But if there is no insurance and we have big fire years, then it’s potentially a much bigger cost to the state,” he said. “And undoubtedly the state would then look to spread that cost to timber companies (and) other private forestry owners.”
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