Greenville Fire Department survived the Dixie Fire; insurance companies may kill it

The Dixie Fire leveled Greenville, Calif. Prohibitive insurance may stall its rebirth.
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 6:41 PM PDT
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GREENVILLE, Calif. (KOLO) -Last summer’s Dixie Fire laid waste to the historic Sierra town of Greenville, but the community itself, including its fire department, are rising from the ashes.. Decisions made elsewhere, however, may accomplish what the fire could not.

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

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

So this is Greenville today. Empty streets with no traffic. Empty sidewalks lead to residential lots where homes once stood. but there is a determination here to rebuild. You see it on signs scattered around the town on now empty lots. “We’re rebuilding” they announce. People who lost homes on those lots are apparently determined to return and rebuild Greenville.

Essential services including the volunteer fire department are up and operating from temporary quarters and there are plans to build a new public safety center here putting law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services in one location.

All signs for optimism until the fire department got word that its insurance policy had been canceled. Its broker looked for alternative coverage. it was there, at an increase which in some cases approached 1,000 percent.

“We’ve come up with very few options,” says the broker, Mike Flanigan of Flanigan Leavitt Insurance in nearby Quincy. “Their premium went from roughly $25,000 to $150,000 dollars with no options in sight.”

“Bottom line is right now are insurance premiums are more than our total budget for the department,” says Chief Bob Orange.

This is an all-volunteer organization running on a tight budget. Even Chief Orange draws no salary.

Flanigan says there’s a new urgency to local efforts to make these communities more fire safe. Things like defensible space, and thinning the forest. But though prevention may in time reduce risk, it won’t help solve the fire department’s dilemma. Chief Orange sees no way forward.

“We can’t exist with the new insurance premiums. We can’t survive. We’ll have to shut down.”

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

“All these other existing homes that made it through there’s no doubt in my mind they’ll have their insurance policies canceled also,” predicts the chief.

It should be noted about 90 percent of the department’s calls for accidents and other medical emergencies. That essential service too is in jeopardy.

Greenville’s fire department may have survived the Dixie Fire. It may not survive the cold logic and mathematics of the insurance industry.

”For a fire department to have an insurance company come and shut down the only outfit that’s capable of helping reduce the claims and the premiums for the community to me doesn’t make any sense. It’s ludicrous. “

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