020318-blm-loc-1wildfires

In this Dec. 5 file photo, smoke rises behind a leveled apartment complex as a wildfire burns in Ventura, Calif.

Noah Berger, AP file photo

BLOOOMINGTON — State Farm has paid more than $1.3 billion in homeowner and auto claims for last fall's California wildfires, which a state insurance commissioner described as the most costly series of fires in that state's history.

Total insurance claims for the fires for all insurance companies have reached $11.8 billion.

If treated as a single disaster, the combined fires in October and December “represent one of the most damaging natural catastrophes in California history,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones told a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

They damaged or destroyed 32,00 homes, 4,300 businesses and more than 8,200 vehicles, boats and other equipment, said Jones.

A rare winter fire outbreak, fed by fierce winds, swept through Southern California in December. They included a fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties that burned 282,000 acres — the largest acreage in the state's history, the Associated Press reported.

The claims figures for Southern California are expected to continue to grow.

State Farm spokeswoman Missy Dundov said State Farm has paid about $98.4 million of 2,960 homeowner claims received and about $2 million of 380 auto claims received for the Southern California fires.

For October's Northern California fires, State Farm has paid about $1.2 billion of 4,540 homeowner claims received and about $20.7 million of 1,340 auto claims received, according to Dundov.

Dundov said, “State Farm agents and their staff, local employees and disaster response claims specialists responded and are here to help customers as California recovers from recent wildfires and extreme weather.”

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter @Pg_Sobota

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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