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Indybay Feature
Insurance Companies and the Forest Service are screwing over Indigenous groups
by Fire
Friday Oct 23rd, 2020 9:10 AM
Insurers are increasingly wary of serving wildfire-prone areas. Happy Camp residents are struggling to rebuild without it
The Slater fire raged through the ancestral heart of the Karuk tribe in the Klamath Mountains near the Oregon border on 8 September. The tribe, known for its deep knowledge of cultural burning and forest management, saw almost 200 homes in the community of 1,000 go up in flames.
‘We just had to get home’: the Californians who rebuild despite the danger of wildfires
Read more

In a historic fire season with million-acre gigafires and more than two dozen deaths, the destruction in Happy Camp barely broke through the long list of dire news stories making the headlines. But it has brought deep hardship for many who have long warned of fire seasons like this one.

Many who live in the Klamath Mountains were either unable to afford home insurance or unable to get it because companies are increasingly wary of insuring homeowners in some parts of the state amid intensifying wildfires. “I lost my insurance two years ago, after the Paradise fire,” said 60-year-old Happy Camp resident Flo Lopez. “I had a whole stack of denial letters from insurance companies, but I can’t prove that. Because those burned.”

More than a month after the fire and with residents still not allowed to return to their properties, the chance for this community with a native claim to California and a long history of tribal ecological fire management to rebuild to its full potential now seems more impossible than ever.

“We’re here because we choose to be here,” said Robert Perez, 34, who lost his ranch in the fire. “We have fresh water, our traditional knowledge, our culture, our ceremonies. It’s all right here and it’s where we want to be as people, right here raising our families. But a lot of these people are not going to have a choice but to relocate. It’s about to be wintertime and we are going to have all these homeless families with nowhere to go.”
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