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Colorado's mountain communities experiencing issues obtaining fire insurance

Residents in some parts of Colorado's high country experience issues obtaining fire insurance
Residents in some parts of Colorado's high country experience issues obtaining fire insurance 02:37

The risk of wildfires in Colorado mountain communities is making it increasingly difficult for residents to get fire insurance.

Ben Peters believes he is a very lucky man who worked very hard for the life he currently lives in the mountains.

"I can kayak a Class 5 only three minutes down the road, mountain bike across the street, snowmobile down the road in the winter, it checks all the boxes," the Gilpin County resident said on his back porch Tuesday morning.

That dream he's built for himself, however, has come with some challenges. Peters is now facing a similar issue that other Coloradans in the high country are; renewing home insurance due to wildfire risk. He said he got a notice from neighbors that it was happening to them first, then he saw a letter from Progressive shortly after, saying he wasn't able to renew his policy with the company due to wildfire risks. He got on the phone with his insurance agent.

"He's like, 'I'm sorry, I wish I could say I have a result for you, but I'm pretty much 99% sure I can't do anything for you,'" Peters recalled. "I have checked with everyone, I reached out to a few others, like State Farm, other folks down in Golden, they said there's a moratorium."

Gilpin County resident Ben Peters bemoans a notification from his insurance company that his home is now uninsurable due to wildfire risk. CBS

There's now a suspension on home insurance based on the calculated risks of homes in Gilpin County. Things like fuel density and previous losses, as well as losses in surrounding areas, can cause these homes to become uninsurable with the big insurance companies. Without insurance, Peters worries about what will happen to his mortgage or what his new policy will be like when he's forced to look to smaller, independent providers, which tend to be multiple times more expensive.

"We're just shocked because nothing has changed for us," Peters said. "If anything, our methodology has improved within Gilpin County, Timberline Fire District, even within our little communities for fire mitigating."

CBS News Colorado spoke with insurance experts and said it has far less to do with what Peters has done and far more with what is happening in the insurance industry at the moment. They're making changes to the formula to remain profitable as well as implementing new standards in that formula after events like the Marshal Fire have created a bleaker outlook for insurance customers, sometimes leaving them with nowhere to turn.

Peters is hopeful local and state governments will pull together to speak up on his and many other Coloradans' behalf, but said his dream of living and playing in the mountains could quickly become a nightmare, should he continue to be uninsured.

"I pulled every penny I could together and worked really hard for multiple years to get myself to a sweet spot to pull this mortgage," he said. "If I weren't able to find home insurance come here middle of July and I have a lapse, one: I could lose my mortgage, two: a fire happens and I lose everything, I don't recover from this."

Drone footage shows Ben Peters' Gilpin County home, which his insurance company says in no longer insurable due to the risk of wildfires in Colorado's high country. CBS

"I will be in such a loss that I don't know how I'd ever dig out," he continued. "That event would define the rest of my life."

Have a similar story as this one? CBS News Colorado is looking for additional folks living in the high country who are now losing their insurance renewal due to wildfire risk. Feel free to reach out to our reporters. 

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