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State recovers $27 million for victims of 2007 San Diego County wildfire [Updated]

November 9, 2009 |  6:25 pm

California regulators have recovered more than $27 million from insurance companies stemming from several hundred complaints filed by victims after a devastating 2007 wildfire in San Diego County, officials said today.

The California Department of Insurance said that consumers had filed 391 complaints alleging unfair treatment by insurance carriers in the aftermath of the Witch fire, which broke out in northern San Diego County in October 2007.

The Witch fire killed two people, destroyed 1,650 structures and charred more than 197,000 acres. That blaze and several others in 2007 caused $2.3 billion in losses, the department said.

Of the 391 complaints, 70 involved underinsurance allegations, according to the department.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said he had spoken with officials at major insurance carriers to ensure that claims are paid out as quickly as possible.

[Updated, 6:50 p.m.: In all, nearly 40,000 claims were filed in connection with California wildfires in 2007, the department said.]

"If they still refuse to honor their agreements with fire survivors," Poizner said in a statement,  "I will take appropriate action to enforce the law."

The department urged victims of recent Southern California wildfires to contact authorities at (800) 927-HELP if they need assistance. Consumers can also visit the wildfire information section on the department's web page.

-- Robert J. Lopez