As wildfires rage across California, the state is facing a shortage of firefighting resources and personnel.
Sound a bit dystopian?
The bulk of these private fire teams are hired by state and local governments to supplement shorthanded crews.
But there’s also been a surge in commissions from well-to-do individuals — including the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West back in 2018 — who are looking for an extra line of defense that the general public doesn’t have access to.
As one company operator told Reuters: “Wealthy people already have their private schools, and they have their private jets. Now, someone with money says, ‘OK, I am going to hire my own private fire department.’”
UberBLACK, but for fire insurance
In recent years, insurance companies have sold a growing number of plans that bake in private firefighting services.
Most of the time, these firefighters aren’t battling flames — they roll up to douse your roof with fire retardant before the wildfire hits. It comes down to money: They’d rather pay for a private service than be held liable for the loss of a $10m mansion in the Los Angeles hills.
An industry under fire
Some say this privatized branch of the industry has deepened the inequities in disaster relief; others say it’s offered support to a system that is chronically shorthanded.
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