When firefighter Eric Morris shows up at wildfires across the West, locals battling the flames sometimes look at him and wonder who sent him.
The answer isn't a public agency. It's an insurance company.
Morris is among a group of private firefighters hired in recent years to protect homes with high-end insurance policies. In a wildfire season that is one of the busiest and most destructive ever to hit the region, authorities and residents say their help is welcome.
For insurers, hiring them is worth the cost. They spend thousands on well-equipped, federally rated firefighters, potentially saving hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to replace a home and its contents.
The private crews work closely with — and report to — incident commanders at the scene. Their presence means other firefighters can focus on other structures ..