The Greenville Fire Department survived the Dixie Fire; insurance companies can kill it

GREENVILLE, Calif. (KOLO) – Last summer, the Dixie Fire devastated the historic town of Greenville in the Sierra, but the community itself, including its fire department, is rising from the ashes. However, decisions made elsewhere can accomplish what fire could not.

The flames spared little. Most of what makes a city a community. its downtown, historic structures, public buildings and even its fire station were reduced to rubble.

Today the debris has been cleared, leaving an eerie landscape with only clues and memories of what once stood and where

So it’s Greenville today. Empty streets with no traffic. Empty sidewalks lead to residential lots where houses once stood. but there is a desire to rebuild here. You see it on signs scattered around the city on now empty lots. “We are rebuilding” they announce. The people who lost homes on these lots are apparently determined to come back and rebuild Greenville.

Essential services, including volunteer firefighters, are operating from temporary quarters and there are plans to build a new public safety center here, bringing law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services into one only place.

All signs of optimism until the fire department learns that his insurance policy has been canceled. His broker looked for alternative coverage. there it was, at an increase that in some cases approached 1,000%.

“We offered very few options,” says broker, Mike Flanigan of Flanigan Leavitt Insurance in nearby Quincy. “Their premium went from about $25,000 to $150,000 with no options in sight.”

“At the end of the day, the insurance premiums are higher than our total budget for the service right now,” says Chief Bob Orange.

It is an all-volunteer organization that operates on a tight budget. Even Chief Orange receives no salary.

Flanigan says there is a new urgency in local efforts to make these communities safer from fires. Things like defensible space and forest thinning. But while prevention may, over time, reduce risk, it will not help solve the fire department’s dilemma. Chief Orange sees no way forward.

“We cannot exist with new insurance premiums. We cannot survive. We will have to close.

This would leave this community without fire coverage or we imagine insurance.

“All those other existing homes that have survived, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll also have their insurance policies voided,” the chief predicted.

Of note, about 90 percent of department calls for accidents and other medical emergencies. This essential service is also threatened.

The Greenville Fire Department may have survived the Dixie fire. It may not survive the cold logic and math of the insurance industry.

“For a fire department to bring in an insurance company and shut down the only business that can help reduce claims and premiums for the community doesn’t make sense to me. It’s ridiculous. “

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Kristan F. Talley