Fire Insurance

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  • We are considering to buy the house we are renting in Berkeley Hills but I'm worried about the fire insurance difficulties I have been hearing about. I definitely don't want to be buying a liability. Anyone with knowledge or experience?


    We bought our house three years ago. We were very surprised that it was hard to find home insurance. Apparently many of the big names have pulled out of the state because of the fires. We ended up with Safeco, which I believe still issues policies. However, I'm surprised this issue isn't covered more in the news and in government -- its a huge program. 

    Assuming you'd need a mortgage, you won't be able to get one without getting insurance, so the liability starts before the closing.

    We were looking to buy a couple of years ago, and our agent warned us to call an insurance agents before even looking at houses in the hills. I've talked with a few, all suggested I'd buy elsewhere: most companies won't write new policies anywhere that is considered a fire risk (and both Allstate and Statefarm stopped writing new policies in all of CA)

    I would just reach out to an insurance agent with the address of the home to see if they can find a company willing to insure it. They can run the address to see that and give you a rough quote, even if you don’t own it. We like and use Heffernan Brignole, and they represent several companies (vs for example State Farm which is just one company, and as we’ve all heard, isn’t even opening new policies in CA anymore :( ). Good luck!

    This same question came up on my neighborhood mailing list this week. We are in the Claremont area, 2 blocks from College Ave, so not quite in the "hills proper."  State Farm and Allstate have both said recently they are not writing new fire insurance policies. A number of my neighbors have existing policies with them, but they are starting to get cancelation notices. One person was able to negotiate renewal with Allstate by doing some mitigation. Another Allstate customer who was canceled found insurance with AAA that only covers about 1/3 of their house's value. A neighbor just had a 10-year Travellers policy cancelled and is looking for a fire policy.  Both Amica and State Farm denied a person who recently bought a house they had been renting, so they purchased a fire policy from Lloyds of London that only covers about 1/3 of their house's value.  Another person who just moved to the neighborhood found their only option was to buy fire insurance through the state, facilitated by Farmers which handles their homeowner's policy.  Hope that helps. It's pretty grim.

  • Hi folks,

    We currently are renting in the Berkeley Hills and moving to the Oakmore Neighborhood in Oakland.  We're looking for homeowners insurance, but were told by a number of carriers it's in a high fire risk zone so they won't cover us.  This was surprising to us - I thought that since we're on the other side of 13, it was considered lower fire risk than areas like Montclair, Piedmont Pines, etc.  Farmers said they'll cover us, but without fire protection, for which we'd need to go through the state program, which is incredibly expensive.  

    Does anyone have any advice on homeowners insurance companies in this area that will cover home + fire?  Thanks in advance!

    I would recommend going to an insurance broker, who will represent you and find you the best deal. I have used McDermott Costa in San Leandro with success. Direct writers such Farmers, State Farm, Allstate do not always have your best interest at stake and can decide to stop writing policies or drop you suddenly. A good broker will have your back. It’s also one stop shopping which makes it easier. Good luck!

    We don't know of a specific company (maybe Geico?) that would cover it if they do certain underwriting for the fire risk. Unfortunately, we have friends in the Berkeley Hills who had homeowner's insurance and subsequently dropped from their plans once the wildfire seasons kept becoming too high of a risk. Our friends have since all moved out of the hills too. We had to get flood insurance for our home and it was covered by FEMA, which ended up being much cheaper than any other private insurer. I don't know if they have a program like that for fires that might be cheaper than the state programs?

    We had a hard time finding coverage for our Berkeley Hills home when we bought in 2019. I scoured a bunch of websites and found Geico and State Farm were the only majors willing to cover our address. I ended up working with Frank Bliss's office in Albany to get the whole kit-and-caboodle (Home, Earthquake, Car & Umbrella) including Fire insurance. My understanding is insurers manage their risk on a block-by-block basis so I think you'll either need an independent agent who can shop for you OR do what I did, and spend 1/2 a day calling around different insurers. Good luck!

    Welcome to the club! We can't get fire insurance other than through the fair plan. Premiums have been doubling or tripling every year. They also keep trying to drop us using really dumb excuses (eg name on policy isn't exact match for name on mortgage due to inclusion of middle name.) It's so bad that I won't consider buying a new house unless I can get regular fire insurance. Call every insurance provider and ask them if they'll write a policy for your address. They all have different rules but none of them wanted to cover our house.

    Make sure that your rebuilding budget is a lot higher than the value of your house. If there's a big fire, everything gets ridiculously expensive and you may not be able to rebuild if your budget is only your current home value. If it isn't too late, I recommend not buying the house that's hard to insure for fire.

    Yeah, welcome to the new reality of life in Northern California. Our 20-year-old, no-claims-ever policy got non-renewed this year because of wildfire danger. I attended an online presentation put on by the Montclair Neighborhood Council this spring that was really helpful in explaining what the reasons and the options were - I don't see it on their website ( but maybe if you contacted them they have an archive of the event somewhere. Here are my quick take-aways from the presentation: A few big-name companies (State Farm, Travelers, Lloyds) are still writing policies in this area, but it's often on a case-by-case basis. "Non-admitted" carriers (not technically licensed with the state, but you can check their rating at or through the LASLI list on the CA Dept. of Insurance website) like Atain, Bigfoot and Heritage are more lenient, but as I understand it (which is barely), since they're not backed by the state there's a possibility they might not have enough money to pay out after a big disaster, so you have to do your due diligence. You can save a bit by increasing the deductible as high as you're comfortable with. Worst case scenario, fire coverage is available (at a high price, as you discovered) through California FAIR Plan, with a supplemental DIC plan through another carrier to cover theft and other non-fire issues. We ended up going through the broker who helped put on the MNC presentation ( and they found us replacement coverage. It is more expensive than our old policy, but they were great to work with and I found it much less stressful to go through them than calling a bunch of different insurance companies on my own, so I'd highly recommend using a broker. Good luck - it will work out but I know it's stressful in the meantime!

    Try talking to Rob Spence. He's really great and helped us when we were dealing with a similar issue:

    Rob Spence
    Agent/Broker Lic 0B36752
    (510) 725-1973 / rspence [at] (rspence[at]summitagents[dot]net) 

  • Fire insurance in the hills

    Mar 3, 2021

    Can anyone share an agent who is issuing new fire insurance policies in the hills?

    We live on Buena Vista Way and had trouble for years. We had to go with Lloyd’s of London, which was very expensive. But this year we went through an Allstate agent  and got insurance from American Modern at a much more reasonable price. You can contact Boo Mariano-Junquiero at kmariano-junq [at], or you can call 925-933-3100 and ask for Boo. Their office is in Walnut Creek but the serve Berkeley as well. 


    Bossa Nova Insurance Agency in El Cerrito. A sweet local woman owned business that offers a variety of insurance companies. I switched to this agency last year and since switching received notice my insurance will be cancelled September 2021 because I live in a very high risk fire zone.  Bossa Nova is working on securing me new insurance through their current sources.

  • Just wondering if any insurance professionals are on the list and have some insight about what the future might hold for fire insurance.  I know the state moratorium on cancelling policies is expiring at the end of the year.  We are looking at buying a home in the urban - open space/ forestlands boundary in Marin and trying to gauge the risk to being able to obtain and afford fire insurance down the road.  Thanks

    Without knowing the fire line score of the property you are looking at, it is difficult to make a reliable estimate of whether fire insurance will be available for a reasonable cost.

    I would recommend that you or your realtor get a binding quote in advance of closing. The cost of fire insurance is likely to increase and it could be a significant increase. There is always insurance available from the California FAIR plan. There is a lot of information on the CA Department of Insurance website (  

    I hope this helps. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Need Fire Area Homeowners Insurance Coverage

March 2014

I own a home in the ''fire'' area of Montclair. I currently have home and auto insurance with Traveler's and before that I was covered with Chubb but switched because Traveler's was cheaper. I need to get auto insurance for my soon-to-be licensed teenaged driver and the quote was over $3000 just for the additional car including the multi-policy discounts and good student discount. I've tried to find other carriers for homeowners as I know it is usually cheaper to bundle all the insurance policies together but I think I am stuck with either Traveler's or Chubb. Does anyone else have a carrier who will write a homeowner's policy in the ''fire'' area of the hills? Thanks in advance for any suggestions on how to lower my insurance premiums.
Don't want to be burned

I can VERY HIGHLY recommend Jared Norton with AAA. I know him personally and he has helped several people that I work with! Here is some info about Jared: Jared Norton is an insurance agent who has lots of experience getting high fire risk properties approved. Jared has over 14 years of experience in the industry and can also talk to you about ways to mitigate the costs of insuring a younger driver and discuss all the available discounts. He will really listen to you and your needs and will work with you to create an insurance policy that provides an excellent value. He was also in claims for over 10 years will be there to help you when you need him. His contact info: Jared Norton
Fire & Casualty Insurance Agent
AAA Northern California, Nevada & Utah
Phone: (650) 301-1384
Mobile: (650) 735-1384

How do I pick Fire Insurance?

Feb 2005

I am in the process of purchasing my first home, and my home loan officer suggested I start shopping around for Fire Insurance, but I have no idea where to start. Does anyone have suggestions on how to go about the process of looking for Fire Insurance? I understand it is easy to access quotes from different insurance agencies when it comes to car or homeowner's insurance, but when I search for Fire Insurance through Google, barely any advice or quotes are available. Can anyone recommend me a person or company where I can ask questions to gain a better perspective of what is good fire insurance coverage, as opposed to bad? I would greatly appreciate any information you could provide. Thanks. Jeffrey

When you say Fire Insurance, you probably mean homeowners insurance (which covers more risks than just fire). I would talk to an insurance broker, who can give you an idea of what kind of coverage you need and can get you quotes from several companies. David Shaffer in Lafayette is good. Then you can contact companies like CSAA that don't use brokers to compare quotes. I would recommend getting guaranteed replacement or extended replacement policy, with building code upgrade coverage. Dr