Rich people in Northern California got better firefighting services, thanks to private insurers

Wealthy people whose homes were threatened by last month's Napa wildfires got better fire-suppression services than their poorer neighbors, thanks to private firefighters paid for through their insurance plans.

The insurers view the firefighting services as an important advertisement for their services and say they often sign up new customers after a big fire, from among the people who watched their neighbors' homes get extra protection.

It's hard to imagine a service that's more intrinsically communal than firefighting: a burning neighborhood home endangers all the homes near it. As wealthy people opt out of communal services, the political will to continue them decreases (see, for example, private health care, private pensions, private transport).

2017 will be the third-hottest year on record. Hotter years are yet to come. A new report from the US government predicts more and worse wildfires to come.

The services are complimentary to policyholders in certain ZIP Codes or states that are prone to wildfires. Some insurers require policyholders to enroll in the programs in advance, to give permission for workers to access the property and to obtain contact information.

Chubb's service, which began in 2008, is offered in 15 states. American International Group Inc AIG, +0.79% launched its Wildfire Protection Unit in 2005 in 14 California ZIP Codes. The unit has since expanded to 385 ZIP Codes in California, Colorado and Texas. Other insurers extending services include Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange, or PURE, and USAA.

As California wildfires raged, insurers sent in private firefighters to protect homes of the wealthy
[Leslie Scism/Market Watch]

(via JWZ)