Prescribed Fire Liability Pilot

Department: CAL FIRE

Program Description: Achieving long-term forest and wildfire resilience requires scaling prescribed fire across California’s fire-adapted ecosystems. In the last few years, California has removed significant barriers to prescribed fire, including reforming permitting for prescribed burns, training, and certifying prescribed fire managers (“burn bosses”), and investing in and equipping local prescribed fire collaboratives.

However, private insurers do not currently provide coverage for prescribed fires. The perceived risk of wildfire and the limited number of private prescribed burns in California make private prescribed fire insurance an unappealing business model.

The State established a $20 million prescribed fire liability fund to support and expand private prescribed fires throughout the State. Although property damage and escapes are rare (less than 1%) from a prescribed fire, a fund to cover the cost of potential losses incurred from a permitted prescribed fire partially limits the financial risk of private burners and incentivizes more permitted private prescribed burns.

Program Impact: SB 170 (2021 Budget Act, Chapter 240, Statutes of 2021) created and funded a $20 million Prescribed Fire claims fund for the State to establish a limited fund as a pilot project to cover certain losses incurred under a permitted prescribed burn that followed its burn plan. SB 926 (Dodd, Statutes of 2022) legally established the fund and provided parameters for access to the fund.

Resilience in Action: CAL FIRE, Department of Insurance, Department of General Services, the California Natural Resources Agency, and UC Wildfire Advisors, have been working with a wide array of prescribed and cultural burning stakeholders to develop the $20 million claims fund structure and function that will allow for private prescribed fire practitioners to access the fund to cover certain losses to facilitate more private burning. The program is launching in the spring of 2023.