California temporarily banned insurers on Thursday from releasing customers in areas hit by recent wildfires, a day after evacuation orders were lifted for residents near a two-week-old blaze that has become the state’s largest so far this year.
Several days of sporadic rain helped firefighters reach 60% of the Mosquito Fire in the Sierra foothills about 110 miles (177 km) northeast of San Francisco. At least 78 homes and other structures have been destroyed since the flames broke out on Sept. 6, charring forest land in Placer and El Dorado counties.
Sheriff’s officials in both counties announced Wednesday that they were lifting the last evacuation order that kept about 11,000 people from their homes at the height of the fire.
Total containment of the 310 square kilometer Mosquito Fire is expected around October 15.
Last week, the blaze surpassed the size of the previous largest fire of 2022 — the McKinney fire — even though this season has seen a fraction of last year’s wildfires so far.
California’s insurance commissioner, Ricardo Lara, invoked a law Thursday aimed at protecting homeowners in the wildfire-plagued state who say they are being squeezed out of the commercial insurance market.
Lara ordered insurers to preserve home insurance for a year for Californians who live near one of several large wildfires that have burned across the state in recent weeks.
The California Department of Insurance estimates the moratorium will affect policies covering about 236,000 people in parts of Placer, El Dorado and Riverside counties.
“Fires are devastating even if you haven’t lost your home, so it’s absolutely critical to give people respite after a disaster. This is not the time to be looking for insurance,” Lara said in a statement.
The law was implemented in 2019, when more than 15 large wildfires burned homes across the state.
Scientists say climate change has made the Western world hotter and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Over the past five years, California has experienced the largest and most destructive wildfires in its history.