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Wildfires blaze across California, causing extensive damage

What started as a 1,500 acre fire in San Bernardino National Park around noon on Sunday, August 7, has grown to more than 12 miles in size, ravaging everything in its path. The fast-moving inferno, fueled by dry brush and windy conditions, triggered thousands of evacuations, with 375 homes under mandatory evacuation and 5,000 homes under a voluntary evacuation advisory.

Sand Hill Fire Is Not The Only One Causing Damage

California is no stranger to wildfires and the destruction they wreak. According to a 2013 study done by the Insurance Information Institute, California falls under the top three states to have the most wildfires, trailing Texas by less than 1,000 fires. Concluded in the same research, California was found to be the state most prone to wildfires.

Tens of thousands of homes and businesses have been lost to these wild blazes. Over the past 20 years, fires have accounted for 1.5 percent of insured catastrophe losses, totaling about $6.0 billion according to the Property Claims Services (PCS) of ISO. Researchers said the risk of wildfires will increase in years to come as temperatures rise, thus lengthening the fire season, and as more people move into steep forested and wildland areas.

Pilot Fire

Thick, heavy smoke covered the surrounding areas, leaving the Apple Valley Unified School District no choice but to close due to the poor air quality. Over 840 firefighters and personnel have been employed to fight the flames, along with a fleet of helicopters, air tankers, and bulldozers.

This fire, dubbed the Pilot fire due to its origin near Pilot Rock Ridge, was located in a rugged rural area and although it has burned through thousands of acres, destroying vegetation, it has not caused any deaths.

Bob Poole, a spokesperson for the U. S. Forest Service, said, "Because of the aggressive attack by our firefighters, we were able to protect homes. These guys - they're highly trained, they're highly motivated and they're doing an incredible job in difficult conditions."

Soberanes Fire

The same cannot be said for the larger Soberanes fire north in Monterey County, which has scorched more than 60,000 acres and continued to rage on into Big Sur. The cause of the fire, which started on July 22, was an abandoned campfire, according to Cal Fire officials. The Soberanes fire continued for two weeks, destroying 57 homes and 11 outbuildings. It has even taken the life of bulldozer operator, Robert Reagan III, who suffered fatal injuries while battling the large blaze.

Monterey County District Attorney Dean Flippo said, whoever started the campfire could face criminal charges, possibly for negligence as opposed to intentional arson. They could also be held liable for structural damage. The fire continues its course, heading to the Pacific Ocean and will undoubtedly cause even more damage to the surrounding areas.

For the 57 homeowners who lost their houses to the Soberanes fire, figuring out the next steps has been a crucial and arduous process, leaving many people struggling to find temporary shelter while the remnants of the fire are being snuffed. With standard homeowners insurance, damage due to fire or smoke is covered. The California FAIR Plan specifically covers residential and commercial properties located in brush and wildfire areas. While this may be comforting for residents in these areas, it does mean they are subject to higher rates because of the increased risk of wildfires.

Financial Damages May Be Recoverable

For residents who have suffered the loss of a home or personal belongings due to a wildfire, California fire insurance claim attorneys recommend they take these steps:

•· make a list of everything lost in the fire and don't throw away damaged property

• File your claim as soon as possible

• Keep track of your current living expenses

• Get repair estimates and keep all receipts

Attorneys may even send independent adjusters to conduct on-sight inspections to determine the approximate value of a claim filed.

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