AIG Insurance Protects Its Wealthiest Client's Homes from Wildfire Damage
By Gerri Elder
It is often said that there are two sets of laws, one set for the rich and another that applies to the poor. And sadly, in some cases that seems to be true. Are there also two sets of insurance policies, and two types of fire departments? That seems to be the case. In many instances, an injury lawyer can help.
When wildfires start and multi-million dollar homes are threatened by the blazes, yes, it seems that insurance companies take notice and in the case of one insurer, action is taken to minimize damages.
In Idaho, when the Castle Rock wildfire started with a lightning strike, broke out and started to rapidly spread, hundreds of high-end homes were immediately evacuated. At that point a national insurance company which caters to America's wealthy decided that it needed to act quickly. The insurance company sent a private crew of firefighters to Wood River Valley, near Castle Rock, to protect 22 homes that it has insured for millions of dollars.
The AIG Private Client Group offers "loss prevention services" to its customers, and only its customers. The private fire fighters were instructed to only protect and prevent damage to those homes insured by AIG. The insurance company provided a fire truck and two man team to douse the insured homes with Phos-Chek, the same fire retardant dropped from U.S. Forest Service aircraft.
Dorothy Sarna, the vice president and national director of AIG's risk-management and loss prevention services, stated that AIG never intended to go out and fight the fire: their job is simply to protect their clients. I'd say they are out to protect their own checkbook as well, because the homes that were protected from the fire would have cost them a bundle had they been destroyed.
Dave Olson, a spokesman for the Forest Service, said that fire managers who worked to contain the Castle Rock wildfire had never heard of an instance in which a private fire crew came out to protect certain individual homes. Even so, the private firefighters had the blessing of the Forest Service to do the job they were hired to do.
Kim Rogers, a Ketchum Police Department spokesman said, "That sounds ridiculous to me, especially since we haven't lost any structures. I mean, this is a Forest Service fire, not a private fire."
Although it was not a private fire, the team sent in by AIG were allowed access to areas that were closed off to the general public in order to protect the specific homes insured by AIG Private Client Group that were entitled to the loss prevention services.
AIG began hiring private fire crews to protect the homes of its wealthiest clients about three years ago. Most of the loss prevention services are provided in the richest communities of California and Colorado. This was the first time AIG had sent a crew out to Wood River Valley, an area in Idaho affected by the fire that is famous for its mansions.
AIG's Private Client Group only insures properties valued at over $1 million, or properties in which the owners pay more than $10,000 per year for the insurance. According to AIG, there is not another insurance company that offers its clients private fire protection.
It dawned on AIG a few years ago that they could save a lot of money that they would otherwise have to pay out in claims if they took the initiative and sent private fire crews out to their insured homes during wildfires. They decided to contract Firebreak Spray Systems for the job. Firebreak specializes in fire-protection for homes and provides services such as an outdoor fire retardant system that functions much like a sprinkler system. The founder of Firebreak also invented the vegetable sprinklers often seen in supermarkets.
Sarna said it best when she said of AIG, "We're not only in the business of paying claims, we're in the business of preventing them." For the rich clients, that is.