Insurance fire teams do not typically fight fires head on, but specialize in prevention.
The recent California Camp Fire made headlines for more than its deadly destruction. It highlighted a burgeoning trend in fire prevention--private and insurance firefighting. The notion of “private firefighters” was new for many Americans. However, firefighting has been co-opted by many insurance companies looking to protect property. These insurers believe they will spend less saving a home than replacing one.
There are several factors contributing to this trend. First, the proliferation of expensive property near fire prone areas. Second, the year-over-year increase in wildfires, especially in areas of California. Third, insurance companies recognizing the potential claims from wildfires and wanting to get involved in prevention. Last, the ability of many residents to afford private fire protection in premiums.
Around 2005 several insurance companies including AIG, Chubb, American International and Pure Insurance began offering firefighting services as part of their homeowners policies in fire prone areas. Adding firefighting to a homeowners policy can cost upwards of $10,000 a year.
What Insurance Firefighters Do
Insurance firefighters is a bit of a misnomer. Each insurer utilizes firefighting services differently, but confronting a fire head on is not common. AIG has a Wildfire Protection Unit, which executes complementary loss mitigation services in target fire areas. The largest insurance wildfire prevention company is USAA’s Wildfire Defense Systems, a contracted company that also specializes in prevention. In the event of an encroaching wildfire, most of the insurance teams clear dry brush and other debris, wet the area, dig ditches, install sprinklers and spray suppression substances.
Federal firefighting teams haven’t always embraced the presence of the insurance crews, but this is changing. Today it’s common to see the insurance teams in the wildfire command tent, coordinating with Federal teams.
Homeowners who do not purchase high-end fire protection can buy some prevention services on demand. Some private fire protection companies offer a one-time application of a fire-retardant or various other one-off services for property in danger.