DMV Identifies Thousands of Vehicles Destroyed in Northern California Wildfires

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January 18, 2018

Law enforcement teams conduct large operation to prevent fraud

Sacramento — The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is working with law enforcement agencies to identify and update records of an estimated 4,000 vehicles destroyed by the Northern California wildfires in October.

“We’ve supported survivors through the Local Assistance Centers, and now we need to ensure all destroyed vehicles are properly marked and recorded to prevent fraud,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto said.

Destroyed vehicles must be identified to prevent the cloning or clearing of the title of a stolen vehicle or fraudulently linking the information of a destroyed vehicle to a damaged and unsafe vehicle.

DMV investigators trained in examining vehicles are working with the California Highway Patrol, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Rosa Police Department to identify these vehicles. The officers mark unrecognizable vehicles with spray paint and log the address where they are found, along with any other descriptive information about the vehicle. The DMV then updates the vehicle’s record as a total loss if the owner has not already updated the vehicle record. The operation began January 11 and is anticipated to be complete by the end of the month.

Under federal law, the state is required to report vehicles declared a total loss to the National Motor Vehicle Titling Information System (NMVTIS), a national database that protects purchasers of used cars from concealed vehicle histories nationwide.  The work of marking the destroyed vehicles allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue cleanup efforts that will allow residents to rebuild in their communities.

On October 9, 2017, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. issued an emergency proclamation for Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties due to the effects of multiple wildfires. The DMV continues to work with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in the recovery efforts.


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