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Palm Trees Are Candles In the Murder Wind

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If you're wondering how to very quickly make enemies this morning, spend sometime calling around California looking for estimates of the financial cost of the wildfires now blazing through seven counties. In 2003, when the last major firestorm struck, 3,300 structures were reportedly destroyed for a total of more than $2 billion in damages. So far we haven't been able to track down any reliable estimates of the damage done or expected to be done by the current fires.
Our questions were innocent enough. We wanted to know who the largest insurers in the affected areas are, for instance. And who are their re-insurers? What's the potential impact on the housing market in southern California? The construction industry? That sort of thing.
Based on the response we got, the largest insurers are firms we've never heard of. One was called Fuh-Que. Another went by the name of Bass-Ter. We suspect the phone companies are experiencing difficulties since many of our calls inquiring about possible trading strategies related to the fires ended when the lines seemingly went dead.
Some of the most informative news we've had on the fire has come from Herb Greenberg, who was forced yesterday to evacuate his home. It's not only informative, though. It's been moving, bringing an instant picture of the profound shock and sadness that comes from watching your home and neighborhood burn. All joking and financial considerations aside, we wish safe passage through the firestorm to Herb, his family and everyone who have felt the trouble of these fires in their lives.
Herb Greenberg's Market Blog []