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County commissioners want to fix fire map – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

The state says insurers are not using the fire risk map to raise rates

A wildfire risk map created and later retired by the Oregon Department of Forestry places most of rural Jackson County in high and extreme fire risk categories.

Jackson County commissioners have sent a letter to state officials asking for a reevaluation and fixes to the wildfire risk mapping process that placed a large number of properties in high or extreme fire risk categories.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation announced that insurance companies are not using and do not plan to use the map to set insurance rates or decide whether to offer coverage.

Some homeowners have said their insurance rates went up or their coverage was canceled after the release of the wildfire risk map, which placed large swathes of rural south, central and eastern Oregon in high and extreme risk categories.

The Oregon Department of Forestry, which was tasked with creating the map after the Oregon Legislature passed a 2021 wildfire preparedness bill, pulled the map earlier this month after ‘having been inundated with thousands of complaints.

ODF and Oregon State University, which worked on the map, plan to work on improvements to improve the accuracy of risk category assignments, ODF said.

The state is moving forward with new fire-resistant building codes that could affect at-risk properties.

Jackson County commissioners said in their letter that while the hazard map has been withdrawn, they are concerned that the process to reinstate the mapping will be redone without local review or public input, which which they said is unacceptable.

Created using satellite imagery, the mapping process did not gather local input or take into account the on-the-ground work that individual property owners have done to reduce fire risk on their land, they said county officials.

“Actions that consist of anything other than pausing, standing back and reassessing the current division of responsibilities and moving forward to correct the problems that are already glaring, can only be perceived by citizens as pure arrogance on the part of Oregon State,” he said. letter written by Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts and signed by her and Commissioners Dave Dotterrer and Rick Dyer.

Commissioners said the “effort in terms of creating a wildfire risk map is a complete and utter failure”.

The commissioners said OSU used an aggressive fuel model calculation. The problems included putting hundreds of irrigated farms, fields and meadows in the high and extreme risk categories.

They said the online appeals process was also a failure, with reports of website crashes, broken links, phone calls going to voicemail, unreturned calls and unanswered questions.

Commissioners said at a minimum, the mapping process needs to be revised to include local landowners, fire agencies and governments to review each site and develop an accurate mapping method that reflects landowners’ efforts to reduce their fire risk.

They also asked the state to approach the insurance sector.

“The State of Oregon has an immediate obligation on behalf of its citizens to inform insurance companies that the wildfire risk map was not designed to affect ratings, ratings or actuarial use of insurance,” the commissioners said.

Commissioners voted Thursday to email the letter to Gov. Kate Brown, all members of the Oregon Legislature and the Oregon Association of Counties.

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation issued a news release Friday and posted information on its website that said insurance companies do not use, and do not plan to use, the Oregon Wildfire Risk Map. state in decision-making.

It’s unclear whether the agency made the move in response to Jackson County commissioners or statewide concerns about insurance impacts.

In the news release, the agency said during informal conversations before releasing the map that insurers told the agency they did not plan to use the map.

After the public raised concerns about the map, the agency made a formal data call to all relevant insurers doing business in Oregon to confirm that they were not using or planning to use the map to set rates or to determine the risk of offering or renewing. insurance, the agency said.

All insurers responded that they do not use the map and do not plan to use the map for this work. In addition, the agency has not received any new fee submission proposals that include the map as a rating factor, the agency said.

The agency does not set rates, but it does review rate proposals to make sure they comply with the law.

“This confirms what we knew: Insurance companies are not using the state’s wildfire risk map,” Oregon Insurance Commissioner Andrew Stolfi said in the news release.

“Insurance companies have been using their own risk maps and other robust risk management tools to assess wildfire risk for years in making rating and underwriting decisions,” he said. “We believe there has been confusion between decisions based on insurers’ continued use of their own tools, including their own risk maps, and discussions about the new state wildfire risk map. We encourage insurers and agents to be careful in how they describe underwriting and rating decisions.”

Underwriting is the process an insurance company uses to determine the risk of offering or renewing insurance for a customer.

“We are here to protect consumers from any misinformation and welcome any documentation consumers have from insurance companies that identify that the map was used to influence underwriting or rating decisions. We also encourage homeowners to contact our consumer advocates with questions or concerns about changes to their policy,” Stolfi said.

The agency issued a bulletin informing insurance agents that no insurers are using the state’s wildfire risk map to make rate or coverage decisions.

The agency warned they could face a civil fine of $10,000 per violation for falsely blaming rate and coverage decisions on the map.

“The unfortunate reality is that wildfire risk has increased in Oregon, especially over the last few years, and businesses are responding to that,” Stolfi said. “One option for non-renewals is to work with an insurance agent, who can help you find a policy that fits your needs. There are nearly 150 companies that offer homeowner’s insurance. “homes in Oregon, so we encourage people affected by wildfire risk to check with several different companies and contact our consumer advocates if they need help.”

Consumers who want assistance or have questions about changes to their policy can contact the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation’s consumer advocacy hotline at 888-877-4894. They can also file a complaint online at

The agency has posted a new homeowner’s insurance guide online at The guide covers insurance terms and helps people better understand how insurance companies set their rates and determine whether to offer or renew insurance policies.

Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.


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