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California To Protect Insurance Policies In Wildfire Areas

Firefighters battle the Maria Fire in California's Ventura County. The blaze ...

Photo by Noah Berger AP

Above: Firefighters battle the Maria Fire in California's Ventura County. The blaze has engulfed more than 8,000 acres.

California on Thursday ordered insurance companies to stop dropping customers who live in areas affected by recent wildfires, invoking a new law for the first time to stabilize the state's volatile market.

The order from Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara will only last for one year. And it only covers people who live within the perimeter of one of 16 different wildfires that raged across the state in October. But the move marks an aggressive push by state regulators to give homeowners more time to find coverage as the growing threat of wildfires makes insuring their homes more expensive.

Lara said California's insurance market is “strong and thriving.” But since 2015, insurance companies have declined to renew nearly 350,000 policies in areas at high risk for wildfires. That data does not include information on how many people were able to find coverage elsewhere or at what price.

RELATED: California To Overhaul Insurance Plan After Wildfires

Lara has the authority to do this under a law he authored while in the state Senate last year and later signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown. The law took effect in January, and this is the first time regulators have used it.

In addition to ordering the moratorium, Lara called on insurance companies to voluntarily stop dropping customers solely because of wildfire risk.

“I believe everyone in the state deserves this same breathing room,” Lara said.

A spokeswoman for the American Property Casualty Insurance Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The order covers zip codes either inside or next to the perimeter of 16 wildfires in October where Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. Generally, the order will apply to areas in Los Angeles and Riverside counties in Southern California and Sonoma County in Northern California.

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