Nevada County homeowners feel insurance pinch |

Nevada County homeowners feel insurance pinch

Firefighters battled a structure fire on McCourtney Road in June. Cal Fire, Higgins, Grass Valley, Nevada County Consolidated, and Penn Valley fire departments responded to the fire.
Photo by John Hart |

The Higgins Fire District used to get calls about once a week from homeowners with questions about fire protection. Now the South County district is getting five to 10 inquiries each week.

Many of those questions stem from the loss of their home insurance. They’re looking for new insurers and need to know if they’re within five miles of a staffed fire station and how many pumpers would respond to their house.

Sometimes homeowners ask why their insurance provider dropped them.

“When they ask why, I say, ‘Three failed ballot measures,’” said Jerry Good, battalion chief of the Higgins Fire Protection District.

The August 2015 failure of a tax increase for the district helped lead to the closure of the Morning Sun Lane fire station and six layoffs in the Higgins Fire District. It was the third such vote in as many years.

The failed Higgins vote isn’t the only reason for insurance companies to leave this area. The risk of fire, and a lack of defensible space around homes, has led to their departure over the past few years, said Richard Harris, owner of Harris Insurance Services.

That departure has only gotten worse over the past several months, he added.

“They’re writing (policies) in Sacramento. They’re writing in Roseville,” Harris said. “The mountains scare them.

“I don’t see them coming back,” he added.

Patricia Anderson, who lives outside the Higgins district in Alta Sierra, recently got her cancellation notice.

“I opened up a letter and it said my insurance would not be renewed,” she said. “Apparently, I’m not the only one.”

Anderson said she always made her insurance payments, never made any claims and kept her defensible space maintained. She sees the non-renewal as unfair.

It likely also will be expensive.

Anderson has spoken with a handful of insurance agents, and been told her new policy, when it comes through, likely will be higher than her previous insurance payment.

“I’ve already pretty much confirmed that,” she added.

According to Harris, location is a huge factor in insurance premiums. Homes closer to cities, meaning they’re closer to fire stations and hydrants, might not see massive cost hikes.

Those farther away from staffed fire stations and hydrants probably will see higher rates.

“They’re scared to death the fires are going to come through and take out not one house, but 20,” Harris said.

“You could make a list of companies that don’t write (policies) up here that’s a mile long,” he added.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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