Agencies hired to protect assets look like first responders but, if a fire puts them in danger, they can become a liability
The engines, big and small, came from all over the country to fight the Kincade fire in the Sonoma county wine region of California. There were trucks from Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado- and from the wildfire protection unit of home insurer AIG.
As flames have increasingly encroached on development in California’s wildlands in recent years, communities are grappling with a new paradigm of risk. If the flame makes an existential crisis for people living in high-risk areas, the committee is also makes one for the companies that insure their homes.
Insurers of houses, timber and agriculture have contracted with private firefighting bureaux for decades. But now, thanks to longer, more devastating fire seasons, the business is booming.
While some wealthy communities and individuals have contracted their own private firefighting services to defend mansions on hilltops from flying embers, the majority of these agencies work on behalf of insurance companies. And as flame danger extend to more homes in California’s flammable brushland and forest, these crews are becoming a fixture in middle class neighborhoods. It is something of a return to a pre-American civil war model of pay-for-play firefighting, before the government employed first responders.
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