Super-rich Californians are hiring their own private firefighters, and it’s causing problems
As the California wildfires rage on, it has been revealed that some ultra-rich residents have insurance policies through AIG which amount to a private firefighting department. AIG’s Private Client Group runs its Wildfire Protection Unit as a private service for the super-rich, and according to VICE 42% of the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans utilize AIG’s service.
The service maps homes in real time as fires approach a property, and gives AIG employees enough time to tell them to get out or to provide firefighters. As the deadliest fire in California history rages, firefighters are not exactly enthusiastic about this situation, with Cal Fire deputy chief of information Scott McLean tells NBC News: “Everyone has to be accounted for and listed in the Incident Action Plan. You cannot just arbitrarily throw people at these incidents… Our primary function is to make sure the public is safe and taken care of. All these other external factors, as they come in, then we have to think about them. We can work together, we just need to make sure we do work together.”
On several occasions, firefighters have checked with their central command, only to find out these private firefighters had not checked in before acting, which complicates the job of McLean and his fellow firefighters. Sonoma Valley Fire Battalion Chief Chris Landry told NBC News, “If I’m in charge of a division, I know all the engines working in my division because they are assigned to the incident. We have communications with them. If the fire is headed their way, I can call them [on the radio] and say, ‘The fire’s headed your way.” Landry continued, “I’ve never seen them (insurance companies firefighters) check in. We don’t have common communication. I don’t know what they’re qualified at. I don’t know where they are, because I’m not supervising them. They report to the insurer.”
Wildfire mitigation is encouraged by many coalitions of insurance companies. Pure maintains a group of insurance companies that offer a Wildfire Mitigation Program for residents in 11 wildfire-prone states, which includes California. But Pure and AIG are not the only players in this game, as the National Association of Insurance Commissioners have created a Community Wildfire Protection Plan to assess different neighborhoods for their risk of wildfire so insurance companies can act as necessary.
It can cost over $100,000 simply to get into this field of private firefighting. Individual missions can cost insurers up to tens of thousands of dollars, and are fed by an ever-growing risk of climate change-related disasters even as climate change.
Ironically, President Trump, who regards climate change as a liberal hoax, berated the forest workers in California on Twitter this week, despite the fact that he and his administration have been trying to defund the state’s forest management. It has also deleted the EPA’s section of its website on climate change.
There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 10, 2018