Homeowners in path of 2003 wildfire now getting notice of non-renewal of insurance policies

Fire danger deemed too high in light of drought

SAN DIEGO - Ten years after the wildfire of 2003, some Scripps Ranch homeowners are getting word from their insurance companies to look elsewhere for coverage as the fire danger has escalated dramatically.

Brush as dry as tinder dominates a lot of the region's landscape this winter with the fire season refusing to take a holiday.

Some who were victimized by the wildfires of 2003 and 2007 are now finding themselves in receipt of a notice of nonrenewal of their homeowners' insurance, even if their home was not destroyed.

Lisa Gorski is one of those Scripps Ranch homeowners.  

"I don't think it's right," she told 10News. "Just because there was a fire in the area 10 years ago, I don't think it's fair that they cancel our policy."

Their home was spared from the flames, though dozens nearby were not.

The Gorskis bought two policies to cover what the first will not anymore. That is expensive. 

"They canceled us and also several people on our street, saying they couldn't renew our policy because we were too close to the brush line," said Gorski.

One of their neighbors sent an email, asking for recommendations in finding a new insurance company.

The email read in part:

"We have been insured … for over 30 years and now they canceling our policy… citing 'close proximity to flammable vegetation'. We have 45 days to get a new policy. Can you give me some recommendations on who you are all insured with. All of you live south of Pomerado and some of us even lost our homes in the 2003 fire. Agents, phone numbers, etc. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated."  

10News contacted the California Department of Insurance, asking if this was legal.

Nancy Kincaid, who is with the Department of Insurance, told 10News, "It is legal in most cases. The insurers have the right to non-renew insurance if they are limiting their risk or restricting their underwriting in certain area because they perceive the risk as too high."

She said the loss potential for some companies could be huge and suggests contacting your agent to see about clearing more defensible space, hardening your home or anything else that might be done to keep coverage intact.

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