Ahead of Season, Oregon May Renew Wildfire Insurance

April 11, 2016

Oregon is considering another year of insurance coverage to help pay for catastrophic wildfire seasons.

British insurance giant Lloyd’s of London is offering the state another year of coverage despite three consecutive years of expensive, drought-fueled wildfires. The policy could protect the state from financial problems if 2016 is another expensive year for firefighting, reported The Bulletin.

“We think that a policy makes good financial sense for Oregon, (and) we ought to keep purchasing it. That’s what our recommendation is,” said Tim Keith on Tuesday. He administers the state’s forest protection fund.

The policy would also be available to private landowners.

Oregon fire officials and landowners would share the $3.5 million premium and up to $50 million deductible before Lloyd’s contributes up to $25 million. The premium is down $300,000 from last year.

Last year, the state nearly lost its coverage for the first time in four decades after maxing out its policy in 2013 and 2014. Last year, Oregon’s fire season was bad enough to trigger federal reimbursements that covered the cost for most severe fires.

Oregon still needs to pay off $10 million in fire costs from last season.

State lawmakers have expressed interest in creating a fund for firefighting and finding money for it. It could hold as much as $60 million.

Sen. Bill Hansell, a Republican from Athena, says he’d sponsor a bill proposing such a trust fund, but he wants to see if there’s a way to protect the fund from being used on other programs when money is tight.

“A trust fund, I can support that. I would. And I would be happy to introduce it,” Hansell said, adding, “I would want protections on it so that it couldn’t be robbed.”

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