PG&E told the wildfire commission in a written statement that the current system “makes utilities the insurers of last resort” and undermines state energy reliability. The commission’s report warned that other utilities could also go bankrupt after future fires unless changes were made.
Terry McBride, whose home and three rental properties burned in the 2015 Butte Fire, said the PG&E bankruptcy was preventing her and her daughter from acting on plans that they had drafted for a new house on their land in northeastern California.
“We’re almost four years living in a camping trailer and haven’t seen a dime,” said Ms. McBride, a fifth-generation resident of densely forested Calaveras County. She and many of her neighbors negotiated settlements late last year, she said, that were put on hold when PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January. “We’re just kind of stuck.”
Local officials in the rural Northern California area around the town of Paradise, which was ravaged by the Camp Fire, welcomed the commission’s calls to expand subsidies for homeowners insurance and to require insurance companies to provide customers with fuller disclosures about coverage provisions.
Shari McCracken, chief administrative officer of Butte County, which includes Paradise, testified at a previous commission hearing that the Camp Fire had left a “magnitude of destruction that people just can’t quite grasp.” Reached by phone, Ms. McCracken said she could not attend the Friday meeting because the county was still providing shelter for around 50 households displaced by the fire, in addition to untold numbers of people living in cars, churches, tents or other temporary locations.
Though many have left the area, Ms. McCracken said the county strongly supported the commission’s insurance proposals, saying they could benefit those who have decided to stay and rebuild.
“That’s a big concern here,” she said. “People are getting canceled or, you know, quotes of $10,000 for homeowner’s insurance.”