California’s Latest Wildfire Problem: Insuring The Tree Trimmers


Publish Date:
September 29, 2019
The New York Times
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D.J. Gomes and his logging crew were working in California’s wine country last fall, helping clear vegetation away from power lines and reduce the ever-growing wildfire risk. While they were gone, fire came for their hometown.

The disaster that followed, the Camp Fire, killed 86 people and virtually leveled Paradise, where Mr. Gomes’s house was one of the few spared. His loneliness has started to ease as stores reopen and displaced neighbors move into new modular homes. But getting back to work has been more complicated.

“If a tree falls on a line, there’s a reasonable claim against the tree trimmer for screwing up, right?” said Michael Wara, director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. “They’re at least partly responsible.”

“When the utilities talk about the limited labor supply, part of what they’re really talking about is the fact that these companies will not do business with them,” Mr. Wara said. “Because doing that exposes the tree-trimming companies to enormous potential liability that they cannot insure.”

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