Insurance companies assess each home's fire risk

Some homeowners in Southern Oregon and Northern California struggle to find home insurance due to living in a high fire risk area.

Posted: Jul 8, 2019 5:40 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2019 5:59 PM

ASHLAND, Ore. —Due to high fire risk in Southern Oregon and Northern California, home insurance isn’t as easy to get or as cheap as it used to be. For some neighborhoods, it’s even more expensive than others.

Skeeter Ramirez is an agent at Reinholdt & O’Harra Insurance and says there’s always a company that will agree to insureyour home, but it may come with a heavy price tag.

"It just may mean you have to pay extra for it," said Ramirez. "That beautiful mountain view of the forest and the remote location is really nice to enjoy but yes, you do have a higher risk of fire."

Ramirez says there are some zip codes that insurance companies won’t work with, if the fire risk is too high. He says that each address is given a specially calculated score, from 0 to 100, with 100 being a home that is extremely susceptible to fire. Each score is calculated based on things like how many trees are around a home, how close it is to a fire station and how accessible the home is to fire crews.

If a home has a score of more than 50, it causes concern for insurance agencies. Ramirez says this is a lot different than what it used to be.

“It used to be pretty cut and dry you know — 20, 30 years ago you could just say ‘I want to buy a home owner's insurance policy,’ and they would ask you your address and it was a lot simpler. We definitely don’t live in that time, and insurance companies are very particular about what they are taking on,” Ramirez said.

Many homes above Lithia Park in Ashland have high scores. Some of these neighborhoods are working with fire marshals to cut back vegetation, install sprinklers in their homes, and attempt to lower their fire risk.

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