Insurers are often reluctant to issue fire insurance policies to residents of such hard-to-protect areas as inaccessible canyons and brushy hillsides. Sometimes they refuse altogether to write a policy.
But homeowners in high-risk areas can obtain fire insurance under the California Fair Plan, a clearinghouse set up by the state in 1968 under which more than 220 insurance companies take on assigned homeowners.
"We were set up simply to spread the risk," said Michael Harris, a spokesman for the plan. "We are available, accessible and affordable."
Sixty percent of all the California Fair Plan premiums are for properties located in brushy areas prone to fire, but the group writes less than 2% of all fire insurance in the state.
The cost of the insurance is determined by many factors. For instance, a brush surcharge ranges from 8 cents to $1.60 per $1,000 valuation, based on the amount of brush and the potential fire hazard. Harris said the companies also consider whether hydrants, fire stations and swimming pools with pumps are nearby, and the condition of roads leading to the property.
The Fair Plan can be reached by calling (800) 252-0089, except in the 213 and 818 areas, where it can be reached at (213) 939-7991.