Living with Fire Risk

Parent Q&A

ISO help with fire mitigation in the Berkeley hills Sep 21, 2021 (1 responses below)
Homeowners insurance - fire coverage - in Oakmore Neighborhood May 10, 2021 (7 responses below)
High Fire Zone Neighborhoods in Pleasanton? Sep 18, 2020 (1 responses below)
Fall Fire Season: Is it time to relocate? Sep 10, 2020 (14 responses below)
  • I am looking for a person or company that provides fire mitigation services to create a defensible space around my property in the Berkeley Hills. I would appreciate any recommendations!

    Our go to for years is Richard and his long-term crew “family” at Oakland Hills Brush Clearing. Knows exactly what the fire department is looking for, specific and knowledge when bidding, does exactly what he says, leaves a clean site, and keeps in touch whenever he sees issues “growing” for our consideration that we may not see with our non-veg management view.  Oakland Hills Brush Clearing

  • 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!

  • We’re considering moving to Pleasanton this year but are concerned about the potential fire danger in the area. Does anyone have insight on which areas of Pleasanton have the highest fire danger? Or, info on the areas that were evacuated - or had evacuation warnings - during the recent SCU (Santa Clara) Lightning Complex fires?

    City of Pleasanton has never been evacuated.  It's the rural unincorporated wooded are south of Interstate 580 and east of Highway 84 that's the highest danger.  But even then I would not worry I can't remember there ever being time when any part of Pleasanton had any large scale fires like we have seen.  Places such as Santa Cruz mountains, Oakland/Berkeley Hills, Lake Berryessa, etc. have always had large fires every 10 - 30 years. The lightning storm we saw this year has never happened before..

    Pleasanton is very nice and I would not worry about fires or evacuations. It would be on my list of places to live if it were not for the summer heat.  Pleasanton can get very hot in the late summer.

  • Fall Fire Season: Is it time to relocate?

    (14 replies)

    Hi friends -- for the last 4 years, I've referred to the fall fire season as: 'the fifth CA season: Mama questions her life choices,' but this year, with the insanely early and intense fire season on top of COVID and all else, I'm really struggling and wondering if it is time to explore leaving the area. I am not a CA native, but have lived in various parts of the East Bay for more than a decade; my husband has never lived anywhere else. His parents are both in the East Bay; mine moved 2 years ago to Reno/Tahoe to be closer to us, and my brother and his family now live in Roseville in a house that they bought with the intention of it being the only house they'll ever own. We have a preschooler and toddler. We bought our house in the Richmond area more than 5 years ago, and are now pretty deeply rooted in our local community, to the point where I've seriously considered running for city council or school board. My husband's an introverted sort who struggles with making new friends in a place he's lived all his life, and also works in software, so is wary of moving away from the tech coast. When the weather is good, the kids and I basically live outside, and our neighborhood is perfect for that kind of lifestyle. We have amazing neighbor friends who I've been scheming to build a real neighborhood community with for the last 2 years. And yet.

    I grew up in northern New England and still have connections there, including some beloved relatives who just moved back to Maine. This week, I'm bouncing wildly back and forth between all the reasons to stay (everything outlined in the preceding paragraph), and the specter of the West just getting drier and hotter and more charred every year, with a longer, uglier fire season every fall. The cost of living hasn't prompted these thoughts in me; the traffic is annoying but manageable; the risk of "the big one" doesn't scare me most of the time (we've done all the preparations we can, have EQ insurance, etc.); but the idea of being locked in our homes for months at a time, literally unable to even play in the yard, every year for the rest of my kids' childhoods... that's starting to feel overwhelming. If winter lasts for 4 months as it did when I was a kid, I can put the kids in wool hats and snowsuits and spend the day outside, but there's no "good clothing" for fire season.

    I know this list has some subscribers who've gone elsewhere. Anybody have any advice they could offer? <3

    GO go go go! You have connections and community make the change! The time is NOW to move. Change is constant and the only thing that will keep us growing. We are headed away from the West and I know we will all survive and thrive. If you are looking for a sign or confirmation let it be this, GO! 

    My husband and I have been having the same conversations – I assume there are many people and families having this conversation. Especially if you have the flexibility like both my husband and I have to work 100% at home and from anywhere. Outside of that, a lot of your situation is the same as ours. We love our neighborhood and my husband was born and raised in Oakland with most of my husbands family live within 20 minutes of us here in Oakland. My family all live on the east coast in North Carolina and one day I hope to move back to be closer to my family. We have started looking to purchase a home in NC to invest in and rent out via Airbnb or long term rental so we can have this property in our back pocket if needed and at the ready if we want to move. We know if we do move back there, the city that we would want to live in has a housing market that has been on the rise for years and we worry that it will be insanely competitive by the time we want to move.

    I know not everyone can take this same path that we are considering (and I know we are fortunate to even have this as an option). I just thought that it would be helpful to tell you our thoughts – you are not alone.

    Hi Mama!

    Just wanted to say I am also a Maine native living in the East Bay! No advice really, but wanted to let you know we are in the same boat. Similarly, prior to COVID my parents were attempting to move to the area to be closer to our family and kids, however everything has fallen to pieces with COVID and now the fires. Over the past month we began to consider moving back to the East coast, but more recently we are seriously entertaining the idea. Weather is one of the biggest reasons why we love/moved to the Bay area, but what is there to enjoy when you are stuck indoors with the windows shut and any museums/kid friendly spots are all closed?

    Sincerely, Also had enough.