California’s firefighters can’t get fire insurance

By Camille von Kaenel | 04/12/2024 12:13 PM EDT

“We can’t get fire insurance at a fire station that’s going to be manned by firefighters,” one state lawmaker said in incredulity.

Inmate firefighters, in orange, get out of a Cal Fire truck.

Inmate firefighters from the Ishi Conservation Camp drill in 2023. Cal Fire

SACRAMENTO, California — How bad is California’s wildfire insurance crisis? So bad that the state can’t get coverage for its own firehouses.

The irony emerged at a state Senate Budget subcommittee hearing Thursday in Sacramento, where Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration defended the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s request for $11 million to replace a kitchen at Ishi Conservation Camp, which houses and trains inmate firefighters in the remote Sierra Nevada foothills of Tehama County.

Cal Fire usually pays for building maintenance with bonds based on the value of its property, but it couldn’t for the Ishi project because it couldn’t insure the facility to underwriters’ satisfaction, Finance Department analyst Victor Lopez told lawmakers.


“The insurance industry, they weren’t interested in selling insurance policies in the region due to the perceived fire risk in the area,” Lopez said. And the insurer of last resort, FAIR Plan, doesn’t meet the bond underwriters’ requirements, either, he added.