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Thousands of homes destroyed as wildfires continue to scorch California


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Thousands of homes destroyed as wildfires continue to scorch California

Wildfires are raging across the northern half of California in one of the deadliest fire outbreaks in the state's history.

Officials in California confirmed that at least 31 people have been killed since the fires started on the evening of Oct. 8. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in its Oct. 13 statewide fire summary report said firefighters were battling 17 wildfires that had burned more than 221,000 acres. An estimated 3,500 homes and other structures have been destroyed by the fires, according to the state.

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Red flag warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service across large sections of Northern California, indicating that conditions are prime for combustion and the rapid spread of fire. The state forestry and fire protection department said overnight winds Oct. 12 were relatively light but were expected to increase the next day, with gusts up to 45 mph possible.

Many of the blazes, including the largest ones, are still not contained. The state said the 48,228-acre Atlas fire was 27% contained as of the morning of Oct. 13. The Tubbs fire in Sonoma and Napa counties, which has burned 34,770 acres, was 25% contained. Fires in Redwood and Mendocino counties have burned 34,000 acres and were only 10% contained as of the evening of Oct. 12. Each of the three fires, which are just a handful of the conflagrations in the state, have caused "significant" structural destruction, according to California's forestry and fire department.

According to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and Farmers Insurance combined controlled 35.7% of the homeowners insurance market in California in 2016, based on direct premiums written. The top 10 writers of homeowners insurance in California write nearly 78% of all homeowners polices in the state. Insurers do not break out which counties or cities in which their policies are concentrated.

In addition to accounting for $7.70 billion in direct premiums written for homeowners policies, California also saw about $1.20 billion in direct premiums written for fire insurance policies in 2016. American International Group Inc. recorded $145.5 million in direct premiums written for the fire line last year, followed by Farmers at $117.6 million and Liberty Mutual Holding Co. Inc. at $104.7 million.

Standard homeowners policies include coverage for fire damage, but such policies only cover properties that are lived in by their owners. Fire insurance policies, while narrower and only covering damage related to fires as opposed to the various hazards under the umbrella of homeowners insurance, are applicable for rental properties.

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