SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Oregon has faced bad fire seasons for the last two years, and now Oregon’s Department of Forestry could lose insurance coverage as the state deals with low snowpack for this time of year.
“The last two years have been the worst financial losses from fire season costs,” Doug Decker with the Oregon Department of Forestry told KOIN 6 News.
Decker said Oregon spent about $200 million fighting wildfires over the last two years. Part of the high cost was offset by $50 million the state was able to claim from its insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London.
“We’ve had to go through the insurance policy, we’ve had to talk to FEMA,” Decker said. “Had to go back to the legislature and ask for more money from the general fund.”
Due to the catastrophic fire seasons Oregon has faced, the insurance company has lost more money than it has made from its policy with the state. Now, with low snowpack in play, state officials and lawmakers wonder if Lloyd’s will renew.
“Without that fire insurance, either the money, the cost of fighting the fire will come largely from the taxpayer or there won’t be as sufficient funds to address those fires,” Klamath Falls Senator Doug Whitsett told KOIN 6 News.
Senator Whitsett is backing a bill that would help private landowners recoup property losses from recent wildfires.
Currently, private landowners are footing half the cost of the annual base cost of $45 million that goes to help fight fires — which is all the Lloyd’s policy covers.
“We have to hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” Decker said.
Decker explained that the insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London is the last option when costs unexpectedly balloon — something brought on by the unpredictability of mother nature.
“For us, we are prepared for another difficult fire season, especially with the snowpack of late,” Decker said. “If we don’t have an insurance policy going in, the potential implications for the general fund are more significant than they have been in the last couple of years.”