Not only has California allowed higher insurance rates to send signals to homeowners who live recklessly in risky danger zones, it is also imposing tougher property standards. In San Diego County especially, officials have learned many lessons from the 2003 wildfires – the largest in California's recent history – that killed 16 people and destroyed 2,458 homes.Note that aside from allowing higher insurance rates, all of the effective measures taken are government policies — not some libertarian fantasy of individual ownership and the invisible hand of the marketplace.
In a new defensive policy known as "shelter in place," the county set construction and landscape codes in 2004 for new homes in fire-prone areas. These included the use of noncombustible roof materials, indoor sprinklers, fire-resistant vegetation, and a 100-foot-wide protection perimeter.
The result? In five new subdivisions that met those codes, this month's wildfires raced by them and not a single house was lost.
In addition, San Diego County has removed much of the area's fire-vulnerable underbrush. It set up a mass notification system that helped quickly evacuate more than half a million people in danger of the fast-moving flames.
And as a final p.s. — Go Chargers!