The next Community Information Meeting will be held Tuesday, April 7th, 2020.
Colette Curtis – Town of Paradise, Assistant to Town Manager
Focus of tonight's meeting is on the Hazard Tree Removal Program and Insurance
Town of Paradise Update
As we approach fire season for 2020, fire safety is at the top of our minds. The Town of Paradise is working with CalFire on defensible space in the Town. There is a lot of work in town being done, and left to do, to remove trees and weeds and other fire hazards.
Reminder: property owners are responsible to make sure their properties remain fire safe whether they are in town or not.
Scotch Broom is an invasive species (pictured) that is also a high fire danger and has been growing back quickly after the fire. Butte County Fire Safe Council has a program called Doom the Broom and will be refocusing work on eradicating scotch broom. Property owners should keep an eye out for it and focus on removing it as quickly as possible, especially while its small.
Economic Development – The Town is excited to see residents returning to the community and rebuilding, but is also focused on supporting the businesses that have reopened, along with new businesses in Town. The Town will be targeting businesses over the next months and years and will even offer incentives to encourage businesses to come to Paradise that will help support recovery efforts and help the community thrive.
The Town continues to work with Cooperator Agencies (PUSD, PID, NRWS) – have always worked closely with these groups. The agencies meet regularly and and will continue to work closely on joint projects to support residents as they recover.
Hazardous Tree Removal Program
With the recent addition of most private roads in Town, 99.7% of parcels in Town are eligible for the State Program; only a few parcels on private roads remain ineligible.
The Hazard Tree Removal Program was pursued because the Town (and County) recognized early on that hundreds of thousands of dead and dying trees would be a barrier to recovery and rebuilding. There were many residents that were under-insured or uninsured and even those with adequate coverage for structures may have had insurance coverage that would not nearly cover the costs to remove hazardous trees. The Town fought to make the case to CalOES and FEMA that help with hazardous tree removal was critical to facilitate recovery. [This program is the first of its kind.]
What is a hazard tree? There will be several steps taken to identify hazard trees:
First, any tree that is closer to the road (or public-improved property) than double the height of the tree is eligible for inspection by a certified arborist or registered forester.
If the inspected tree is deemed hazardous, meaning that it is a threat to fall within the next five years, it must be removed.
Insurance and the Tree Removal Program: It is important to know that insurance policies are individual and unique.
Every property owner is encouraged to talk with their agent to understand what is covered with regard to the removal of trees.
The State Program may help leverage insurance to allow a property owner to remove more trees than there otherwise would have been funds to remove. It is meant to help individuals without insurance or without enough insurance to remove as many hazardous trees as possible.
United Policyholders is an amazing resource for residents to understand insurance coverage and how best to leverage. They are speaking tonight and offer many workshops and individual help to fire victims to help with insurance claims issues.
Questions about the Hazard Tree Removal Program - both the State and Private Programs – should be directed to the Tree Removal ROE Center by calling (530) 552-3030.
Casey Hatcher, Butte County
Casey gave an update on the Hazard Tree Removal Program for those with property in the County. Her update was focused on insurance related to debris removal and tree removal.
The Hazard Tree Removal Program for Butte County mirrors the program available in the Town – the main difference is in private road eligibility, with fewer private road parcels included in the program.
The public-facing map is now available online. Property owners in the Town or County can look up their parcel on the map to determine if their property is eligible for the Program and see the status of properties involved in the program (similar to maps that were available during debris removal).
Including your Insurance Information for the State (Government) Program:
Page 2 of the ROE packet for the State Program references insurance coverage – it is quite similar to the ROE packet from debris removal.
The form asks if there is specific insurance coverage for hazard tree removal. The Federal government requires that taxpayer dollars do not duplicate any privately-sourced benefit.
It is very important to look at your policy and understand what coverage you had (whether you've been paid for it or not) for tree removal and related costs. It is your responsibility to determine if stump grinding or replacement landscaping are eligible to be covered by any tree removal portion of the policy and be prepared to document those expenditures so they may be deducted from what is billed for State Program Tree Removal by the County.
There will likely be approximately a 1 year delay from the end of Tree Removal Program work (which is estimated to take 9 months) so the State can provide the County with the costs information needed to invoice property owners. Similarly, the County estimates that the State will provide all the costs associated with the Debris Removal Program within the next year to allow the County to begin billing property owners that had any privately-sourced benefit (insurance coverage) for debris removal costs (whether coverage was specifically stipulated or considered a portion of a larger policy coverage).
Tina Walker – CalOES, Government Tree Removal Program
Tina gave an outline of activities related to the State (government) Tree Removal Program:
Phase 1: assessment and monitoring of trees – certified arborists and registered foresters will be inspecting individual eligible trees and the environment of those trees. Assessment is dedicated to evaluate each tree and identify/mark trees meeting hazard tree criteria.
Phase 2: Second set of contractors (tree removal contractors) will come in and remove marked trees.
They are waiting to begin Phase 1 – at which time an invitation to bid for tree removal contracts will begin after Phase 1 insections commence.
CalOES has established a Tree Removal office in former DROC office in Chico.
They are already working on safety and traffic logistics for the Program. They recognize operations can be inconvenient; they thank the public in advance for patience. Working with State and local reps (law enforcement, CalTrans) to refine Traffic Management Plan and Environmental Protection Plan so not disrupt indigenous or migratory species, they are focused on taking care of our waterways and other environmental aspects of the community.
They still anticipate the Tree Removal Program will be completed within 9 months.
Once they finish with all work, finalize paperwork and get it to the County – billing will not happen until after that.
Sandra Watts – United Policyholders – Insurance
Sandra spoke about where to look in your policy for coverage information about tree removal and how to know what questions to ask your insurance rep.
United Policyholders is a non-profit organization. United Policyholders doesn't collect any money from the people they help - they work entirely on donations and grant funding.
Sandra is an ex-adjuster that helps individuals with insurance claims after a disaster.
Understanding Your Insurance Policy for Hazard Tree Removal
Insurance coverage is policy specific. Sandra used examples to explain what to look for, but your policy may differ from these examples.
Talk with your insurance agent/adjuster for help determining your specific coverage. Ask them to explain it in writing.
Start with your Declarations Page, which provides a summary of coverages (example pictured).
When you look for coverage for Hazard Tree Removal, it is likely considered an Additional Coverage - look for this section of the policy next. If your policy has a Table of Contents, that can help you find that section of the policy quickly (example pictured).
Start with the Debris Removal Section: There is a relationship between debris removal and trees/shrubs in SOME policies.
Does it talk about removal trees/shrubs? Most don’t (the example verbiage pictured does not).
If it does mention trees/shrubs, find out if the policy has any additional limit (ex 5% like the example verbiage lists) – when the ROE packet asked for specific limit, that is what you are looking for.
If there is a mention of trees/shrubs in the debris removal section, there may be conditions that apply that you'll need to understand. For example, the policy verbiage pictured marked CSAA HO-3 Form says this example policy will pay reasonable expenses for removing fallen trees from the residence premises. Bold terms in policy language mean they are specifically defined elsewhere in the policy. This verbiage means that if a tree falls on the house during the eligible event, removal would be covered (that particular condition likely means that there wouldn't be coverage for tree removal from that portion of the policy in our case).
Next look for a specific Trees, Shrubs, and Plants section in Additional Coverages:
Pictured is an example of a common clause in policies: it has coverage for trees, shrubs, and other plants on the residence premises for loss against fire. The limit of liability shall not exceed 5% of limit for coverage A.
This paragraph doesn’t describe what that is for specifically, which means the coverage is for all costs involving trees, shrubs, and plants: including removal, stump grinding, replacement, etc. But the verbiage also limits the coverage to $500 for any one item, including removal expense.
This example policy verbiage pictured has the same basic lead-in as the earlier example with more info: the tree doesn’t have to fall on house, but only if blocks driveway etc - $1000 limit for one loss, regardless of number of trees, shrubs, or plants.
Homeowners policies are written intended for suburban residences – not FORESTS! Coverage for a forest of trees is not coverage that you can go out and buy (timber insurance applies only for commercial forests). This is an exposed risk for people with many trees.
What you should do:
Ask your adjuster in writing to explain specifically what your coverage is for the debris removal of trees, shrubs, and plants, as well as what you have been paid to date for that coverage.
Some policies say that there is an extra 5% that applies to every coverage (A, B, C, D – trees/shrubs – specifically for debris removal (this would end up being 5% of 5% - not a lot of money, but it is something). If you have the additional 5% over all the coverages, you often need to ask for that coverage – this is not a typical circumstance so they may not have automatically considered that coverage already.
United Policyholders has put together a dedicated Camp Fire website help page.
United Policyholders is holding two workshops soon to help with insurance disputes:
For Construction Professionals: Friday 3/13 from 2 to 4 PM at the Town of Paradise
For Homeowners: Saturday 2/14 from 10:30 AM to 2 PM at St. John Church in Chico
RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org!
Mike Zuccolillo – Vice Mayor, Town of Paradise
Mike gave an update on work regarding insurance coverage moving forward.
Commissioner Lara has made many visits up to the Ridge. It is known that one major issue for recovery is continued or new policy insurance coverage – for example, insurance that used to be $1500 a year is sometimes now $6000 a year or you can’t get it – and his visits reflect they are aware and working on it.
He is proposing some legislation that if you do certain things to fire-harden home, could get coverage – the proposal sounds good, but there are challenges too. Insurance companies are not quite sold on it yet. Some Republican members of legislation have put forward a competing bill. It is unclear exactly what will happen, but some things will likely change.
They are trying to simplify how insurance is determined. Their goal is to identify steps homeowners can take to ease ability to get insurance. Details are being worked out, working its way through legislative process. Mike is impressed with how much Commissioner Lara has visited and taken a proactive role in trying to get us affordable insurance. This issue is affecting home sales, and many aspects of recovery.