SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - Property damage claims from a series of deadly October wildfires now exceed $3.3 billion, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Tuesday.
The figure represented claims for homes and businesses insured by 15 companies and was more than triple the previous estimate of $1 billion. Jones said the number would continue to rise as more claims were reported.
The amount of claims now reported means that the fires caused more damage than California's 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which was previously the state's costliest, with $2.7 billion in damage in 2015 dollars, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
Forty-three people were killed in the October blazes that tore through Northern California, including the state's renowned winemaking regions in Napa and Sonoma counties. They destroyed at least 8,900 buildings as more than 100,000 people were forced to evacuate. It was the deadliest series of fires in California history.
Several dozen buildings were also damaged or destroyed in fires in Southern California's Orange County.
"Behind each and every one of these claims ... are ordinary people, Californians who lost their homes, lost their vehicles, in some cases whose family members lost their lives,'' said Jones, a Democrat who is running for attorney general.
Jones said there were just over 10,000 claims for partial home losses, more than 4,700 total losses and about 700 for business property. There were 3,200 claims for damaged or destroyed personal vehicles, 91 for commercial vehicles, 153 for farm equipment and 111 for watercraft.
The figures do not reflect uninsured losses, including public infrastructure and the property of people who were uninsured or underinsured.
Arson suspect's warning
Meanwhile, a man facing arson charges for a wildfire that destroyed two homes south of the San Francisco Bay Area had an ominous message for a prosecutor during a court hearing Tuesday: "You're next.''
Marlon Coy, 54, uttered the words while glaring at Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell while he explained four of the felony charges Coy is facing, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.
Coy pleaded not guilty to charges of arson of a nondwelling, arson causing bodily injury and being a felon in possession of a firearm, the newspaper reported.
Witnesses saw Coy start the fire on October 16 near a property in Santa Cruz County connected to someone with whom he had a dispute, sheriff's officials said.
Coy was arrested in possession of jewelry and a bicycle taken from a home that had been burglarized while under evacuation, according to sheriff's officials.