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Hastings Environmental Law Journal

Abstract

The Western United States continues to experience devastating wildfire seasons. These severe disasters worsen as climate change lengthens periods of aridity and hotter temperatures. Despite this longstanding and well-documented forecast, wildland-urban interface (“WUI”) development has continued without much restriction over the past thirty years. Insurers who once issued policies in these western WUI regions now experience substantial losses on an annual basis and are reconsidering their approach to market participation in fire-prone areas. In areas with acute fire destruction like California, insurers’ resulting rate increases and non-renewals have forced state government intervention to protect property owners. This tension is emblematic of the growing property insurance problem facing the United States and other western WUI areas that forecast a growing wildfire problem within the next century. Drawing on previous discussions, this article outlines detailed policy components for a federal National Wildfire Insurance Program that would offer wildfire insurance to individuals in participating communities concerned with fire risk. In particular, this article attempts to outline program features and mechanisms that would avoid large-scale debt like that of the National Flood Insurance Program.

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