The Albuquerque Tribune is reporting that some of the nation’s largest insurance companies are inspecting homes throughout the West that are at risk from wildfires and are threatening to cancel coverage.

The Tribune reports that the insurance companies are pushing homeowners to clear brush or take other precautions.

Dead, dry brush surrounding many of San Diego County’s rural and canyon-top homes has been the focus of a lot of attention from the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department recently. We reported a couple of weeks ago that this year has been a particularly dry one, and that fire officials are predicting a particularly hazardous fire season.

The fire department has also recently been conducting its own inspections of canyon rim homes, and has been handing out tips on how homeowners can better protect their properties by cutting back dry brush surrounding their homes.

According to the Tribune, the tactics of the insurance companies have angered homeowners and watchdog groups. Here’s an extract:

“It certainly isn’t fair for these insurers to be dumping these last-minute requirements on homeowners,” said Carmen Balber of The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights.

“It does make sense to require homeowners to take reasonable precautions, but some of the excessive demands that we’ve heard from homeowners are over the top,” she said.

Those demands, the Tribune reports, include not just cutting back brush around homes, but also insisting homeowners install fireproof roofs.

Replacing wooden shingled roofs with fireproof tiles has been one of the tips San Diego Chief Tracy Jarman has been pushing at press conferences and in interviews recently.

The Tribune puts the number of homes standing in wildfire red zones at 6 million. USA Today recently reported that people are still flooding into wildfire zones despite the risks.

Here’s another chunk of the Tribune article:

Denise Taylor, a San Diego high school teacher, lost her home to the Cedar Fire in 2003. The wildfire east of San Diego killed 15 people, scorched 427 square miles and destroyed nearly 3,000 buildings, including some 300 homes.

Taylor was stunned when her insurer, USAA Insurance Cos., doubled the annual premium for her rebuilt residence, which was 300 square feet larger, to nearly $3,000.

She said the company insisted on insuring the home for $1 million even though she only paid $600,000 to rebuild with fire-safe stucco siding, a fire-resistant deck and roof, brush clearance, no eaves and a stucco wall separating her property from a regional park.

“When you look at the profit margins of insurance companies, it’s not like they’re starving. Sometimes they’re going to have to pay a lot of money, and that’s life,” Taylor said.

WILL CARLESS

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