California has kept rainfall records since the start of the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. 2013 ended up being the driest year on record in California history.1 That is pretty incredible when you think about it. The state is finally getting some much needed rain this weekend as a big storm rolls by.
This morning, I was talking to Woodman White, a public adjuster based in Southern California. He was telling me about some homeowners he represents who sustained property damage in wildfires, (including the recent Colby Fire in Glendora), and the big worry now: mudslides, which occur when rain over saturates and causes instability in hillsides that have been burned.
Damage resulting from mudslides or mudflow is generally not covered under a homeowner policy. Most policies have provisions that specifically exclude damage resulting from “earth movement” which include, among other things, mudslides. However, coverage is usually extended for earth movement that ensues from or is a direct consequence of a fire. This holds true for mudslides in wildfire burn areas. I have not come across any time limitations (at least in policies I have seen) as to when a mudslide or landslide is deemed wildfire-related, but I would expect that it would not be indefinite.
If you have flood insurance, mudflow2 is a specific type of earth movement covered under National Flood Insurance policies.
For homeowners who have sustained further damage from mudslides following a wildfire, you are likely covered under your policy. If questions arise about coverage, you should consider speaking with an insurance professional.
2 Mudflows are rivers of liquid and flowing mud on the surface of normally dry land, often caused by a combination of brush loss and subsequent heavy rains. Mudflows can develop when water saturates the ground, such as from rapid snowmelt or heavy or long periods of rainfall, causing a thick liquid downhill flow of earth. Mudflows are different from other earth movements, such as landslides, slope failures, and even moving saturated soil masses in which masses of earth, rock, or debris move down a slope where there is not a flowing characteristic. Damage from mudflows is covered by flood insurance; damage from landslides and other earth movements is not.