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Oregon will have a much harder time filing a claim on its wildfire insurance policy

Oregon has a one-of-its-kind insurance policy to help offset the cost of fighting wildfires.

Oregon will have a harder time filing a claim this year on its insurance policy that covers the cost of fighting wildfires.

For nearly 50 years, the state has purchased catastrophic wildfire insurance coverage from Lloyd’s of London. It’s the only state with such a policy, and the Oregon Department of Forestry says in the last decade alone, Oregon has filed twice as much in claims as the cost of the premiums.

But while those premium costs are holding steady, filing a claim will be more difficult this year. That’s because Lloyd’s has raised the state’s deductible by 50 percent, citing those recent claims as well the longer nature of wildfire seasons. It means that the state will need to shell out $75 million on its own before it can cash in on its insurance policy.

"The increased (deductible) greatly reduces the probability of a claim, but does not preclude it," wrote legislative fiscal analyst Matt Stayner in a report to the Legislature Emergency Board.

Stayer noted that in 2013, net firefighting costs added up to $75 million. He also wrote that if the state cancels its policy, it would likely be difficult to secure a new one in the future.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, was one of a majority of members of the Legislature's Emergency Board to vote in favor of renewing the policy for now, but he said the new deductible could change the equation going forward.

“The game that we’re playing, just frankly, should be probably looked at next year as we decide whether this is the right path that we should go down,” he said.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”