Hey, California: Stop Encouraging Building in Fire Zones!: New at Reason

The so-called Camp Fire in Butte County, California, has led to the deaths of 85 people and destroyed 13,972 homes, making it the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. Sadly, California law makes it likely that another fire will soon claim that dubious distinction.

Thanks to the state’s funky way of regulating insurance, residents in fire-prone areas have little reason to move out of harm’s way after the last ember has cooled, says Ray Lehmann, an insurance policy expert at the R Street Institute. “California makes it really difficult for the market to do what it would normally do in these cases, which is when assessments of risk go up, insurance rates go up, and a place becomes less attractive to build there,” he says.

As with many of California’s problems, its dysfunctional insurance market can be traced back to a decades-old ballot initiative, writes Christian Britschgi.

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