When firefighter Eric Morris shows up at wildfires across the West, locals battling the flames sometimes look at him and wonder who sent him.
The answer isn’t a public agency. It’s an insurance company.
Morris is among a group of private firefighters hired in recent years to protect homes with high-end insurance policies. In a wildfire season that is one of the busiest and most destructive ever to hit the region, authorities and residents say their help is welcome.
“There’s curiosity the first time they work with us,” he said. “After a while of explaining and making some calls to the right people, they let us right in.”
Morris and his nine-man crew helped protect 35 homes in Colorado Springs in the most destructive fire in the state’s history. It killed two people and destroyed 346 homes.
There are no numbers available for how many homes these firefighters save and, given the unpredictable nature of fires, few are willing to take credit.
For insurers, hiring them is worth the cost. They spend thousands on well-equipped, federally rated firefighters, potentially saving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to replace a home and its contents.
Morris’ crew worked for Chubb Personal Insurance, which provides coverage for homes typically valued between $400,000 and $3 million, said Kevin Fuhriman, the company’s personal lines catastrophe manager.
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