Insurance claims for Northern California wildfires reach $9B

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — More than $9 billion in insurance claims have been filed following wildfires that ravaged Northern California two months ago, the state's top insurance regulator said Wednesday.

The figure represents residential, commercial, automobile and other property claims filed with 260 insurers by Dec. 1, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. It's up from $3.3 billion in losses that Jones announced in late October. He said the number is not likely to rise significantly.

The wildfires that ripped through Northern California were the deadliest in state history.

"This represents one of the most devastating series of fires in California's history in terms of insured losses," Jones told The Associated Press. "And behind those staggering numbers are personal stories of tragedy and loss, and 44 individuals whose lives were lost."

People have filed claims about full or partial losses of more than 18,000 homes, most of them in Sonoma County, where a blaze destroyed several neighborhoods. There were nearly 2,300 business property claims, nearly 5,000 vehicle claims and 650 claims for other property, including boats.

Jones said the state has helped at least 2,000 people with insurance questions or disputes.

Despite the staggering losses in a short period of time, Jones said there's "no question" that insurers have the money available to pay claims.

Also Wednesday, the FBI announced it's created a task force with state and local agencies to investigate potential fraud in wildfire relief efforts. The FBI's San Francisco Division said the task force will use intelligence about fraud in other recent disasters, including hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico earlier this year.