Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Private Firefighters in Southern California

It's a billion dollar industry:

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, insurance companies started issuing plaques to show private fire brigades which homes to save--and which to let burn. Insurers organized their own firefighting companies. Not having a plaque didn’t mean your home went totally ignored, but it certainly didn’t help.

Today, a decline in public funding for firefighting services has sparked explosive growth in the private sector. The world’s largest insurance company – American Insurance Group – now has “Wildfire Protection Units” in 150 US zip codes. During the 2007 California wildfires, AIG’s firefighters saved homes in wealthy areas, while less fortunate neighbors were left with rubble. A trade group for private firefighters founded in 2000 now represents 10,000 private firemen.

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