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When the smoke clears, are these massive fires in California truly wild?

High winds, dry brush and power lines - which of these aren't part of nature?

California wildfires aren't necessarily "wild'.

In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, it was reported that over the past couple of years, these quick-growing and massive wild fires have in some cases been caused by utility companies and their equipment. In 2015, the last year of reported data, electrical power problems sparked the burning of 149,241 acres — more than twice the amount from any other cause.

And regulators have hit the state’s investor-owned utilities with tens of millions of dollars in fines related to wildfires, including $37 million for the 2007 Malibu fire (Southern California Edison); $14.4 million for the Witch, Rice and Guejito fires the same year (San Diego Gas & Electric); and $8.3 million for the September 2015 Butte Fire (Pacific Gas & Electric).

Investigators have yet to determine what sparked the Northern California fires. But a review of emergency radio traffic recordings found that fire crews were dispatched to at least 10 spots in Sonoma County in response to reports of sparking electrical wires and exploding transformers as high winds pummeled the area on the night of Oct. 8, the San Jose Mercury News reported. The first fires were reported about the same time, the newspaper said.

Once the fires in Southern CA are under control, investigations will be conducted to find the source of what caused them and who or what is responsible. It's been widely reported that extremely strong Santa Ana winds combined with very dry conditions are the reason that the fires grew so fast and so massive, but when the smoke clears, will we discover that the utility companies bear responsibility for these fires? Have they been adequately clearing brush around power poles/lines? Have they postponed installation of underground power line alternatives which are the future of preventing electrical line fires. If you've been a victim of these recent fires and would like to stay informed of the investigative outcomes, please contact Becker Law Group at 562 708-1111.

Victims of the recent Sonoma County wild fires in Northern California and the still burning wild fires raging in Southern California have been devastated by the material and emotional losses that follow. Many find comfort in knowing that they have insurance that covers their losses, but some victims discover later that they will not fully recover their losses. The amount you're paid will depend on the kind of coverage you have. While “replacement cost” coverage should cover the cost of repairing or replacing your home and any lost or damaged items, “actual cash value” coverage will pay you the value of your home and the damaged items inside, less depreciation.

Delight from receiving a reimbursement can quickly turn to dismay if you are underinsured. The nonprofit Community Assisting Recovery (CARe), a consumer-advocacy group for disaster victims say most homeowners are underinsured by at least 30% to 40%.

Some disaster victims are in a state of shock and just grateful to get help. If the insurer cuts a check quickly, most people never raise an eyebrow. They’ve never seen a check that big. Later they realize there’s no way they can rebuild for the amount given.

THREE OUNCES OF PREVENTION

You never think a natural disaster will happen to you—until it does. Take these steps to make sure such an event doesn’t destroy your finances.

Insure to the max. Getting the right-size policy is crucial. Give your agent detailed info about your teak deck and hardwood floors. Consider what it would cost to rebuild, not just your home’s current value. And update if you renovate.

Get the right type. What you don’t want: actual-cash-value coverage, which adjusts payouts for depreciation. Buy extended-replacement coverage, which pays for the cost of rebuilding today, plus an extra 20% to 50% or so for unexpected expenses.

Make a record. Put together an inventory of your possessions, preferably on videotape, and store it in a secure place outside your home. This will help prove what you owned. Update the video periodically, especially after major purchases.

ABOUT BECKER LAW GROUP

BLG is a Southern California based law firm dedicated to protecting the rights and victims of tragic circumstances, including wrongful death, personal property damage caused by man-made fires and negligence resulting in personal injuries and or death. Contact Todd Becker at 562 708-1111.

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