California fires. What homes will need for best insurance discounts

California is implementing a three-pronged approach dubbed “Safer from Wildfires” to reduce the wildfire risk of older homes, including measures to harden homes, their immediate surroundings and the communities they are in.

California has existing wildfire building standards for homes built after 2008. But as catastrophic megafires drive up the cost of insuring homes and thousands of homeowners in rural areas are dropped by insurers, the new standards would prompt insurance companies to offer discounts, providing incentives for retrofitting older homes, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said.

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“Reducing the wildfire risk is critical to making insurance available, reliable and affordable for all Californians,” Lara said.

A home burns on Jeters Road as the Dixie fire jumps Highway 395 south of Janesville, Calif., on Aug. 16, 2021.

There are 12 insurance companies representing 40% of the insurance market already offering discounts to homeowners taking hardening measures. Three years ago, only 7% of the market was offered such discounts, Lara said.

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But he said he wants to see broader discount programs and thinks a uniform set of standards, based on scientific research, will give homeowners, communities and insurance companies a shared strategy for reducing wildfire risks. Here are the new standards at a glance: