This wildfire season, get covered—and stay safe.
Nearly 59,000 wildfires were reported in the United States in just 2020 alone. These flames burned through 10.1 million acres of land, nearly 18,000 homes, and other structures, and caused billions of dollars in damages.
The quantity and size of wildfires increase yearly, making an increasing number of individuals vulnerable to the resulting financial, physical, and emotional destruction. Human activity is to blame for 84% of wildfires in the US, claims Science.org.
If you own a house in one of the states with a high wildfire risk (Alaska, California, Oregon, Idaho, and Texas, just to name a few), you should be aware of when and how your homeowners insurance can defend you in the event that a wildfire sweeps through your neighborhood.
Does home insurance cover wildfire fire damage?
Yes, a basic homeowners insurance policy, sometimes known as a HO3 policy, covers both smoke damage and fire damage.
In the case of a wildfire, the following forms of coverage are included in a standard HO3 policy:
Your home, or habitation in insurance terminology
This is known as dwelling coverage, and it protects you from the financial burden of house damage. Your dwelling policy would take effect to rebuild or replace the structure of your home in the event that a wildfire damaged or completely destroyed it (according to your coverage limitations and, of course, less your deductible).
Additional structures on your land
Your house insurance coverage also covers damage and devastation caused by wildfires to your driveway, fences, sheds, detached garages, and other structures on your property.
Your possessions and personal things are covered under personal property insurance.
Whether your belongings are at home or elsewhere, your homeowners insurance has your back. Personal property insurance will probably pay for the costs of cleaning or replacing any items harmed by smoke from a wildfire.
Don’t throw anything away if you want to file an insurance claim to replace some of your valuables, such as clothing, furniture, gadgets, etc., that you believe to be beyond repair. Wait until an adjuster can examine your belongings so that your coverage can begin to replace them.
P.S. There could be sub-limits on some expensive items like jewels and works of art; make sure to purchase additional coverage for these when purchasing your policy, or, in insurance speak, schedule your personal property.
Additional costs of living
If your home is rendered uninhabitable by fire or smoke, or if your community is ordered to evacuate, you may be covered under a policy provision known as “loss of use,” and your insurance provider can contribute to the cost of additional expenses incurred as a result of having to temporarily vacate your home.
In addition to helping with additional essential living costs like food, laundry, pet boarding costs, and parking until your home is safe to return to, this can include an Airbnb or hotel accommodation.
Personal liability refers to the idea that your insurance provider should have you covered if someone is hurt on your property due to your negligence, or if you or anyone else listed on your policy damages the things or property of another. In the event of a wildfire, this coverage probably won’t be as important, but it’s still wise to keep in mind.
How to help protect your home from wildfires
Your roof is your first line of defense against wildfires. Your entire house would be engulfed in flames in minutes if your roof caught fire.
A fire-resistant material, such as asphalt, metal, slate, or tile, should be used for your roof instead of wood. You can treat wood shingles with a flame-retardant finish if you have them. (Note: this is not a surefire way to prevent wildfires.)
Keep your roof and gutters clean by routinely removing dead leaves, brush, and other debris. Dry material makes the ideal kindling for embers that are about to fall and can hasten the spread of fire. To prevent embers from entering your home, make sure to fix any missing or broken shingles. When it counts, proper roof maintenance throughout the year may be the difference.
Keep the outside of your house sealed off.
Embers are familiar to anyone who has ever gathered around a campfire or enjoyed a fireplace. They are the glowing, extremely hot chunks of coal or wood that are burning. When these lovely embers get into your house and create a fire, they turn dangerous.
Keep embers from entering your home during the wildfire season (approximately May to October). Be sure to close off doggy entrances and cover exterior vents with 1/8-inch-thick hardware cloth.
Install windows that are fire-resistant.
The heat from a wildfire can melt plastic skylights and crack or even break windows. To improve the likelihood that your single-paned windows will withstand temperatures caused by wildfires, think about switching them out for double-paned models, preferably constructed of tempered glass.
Make sure your property is clear
Fires can be nourished by anything that is laying around close to your home since they are ravenous. Clear the area around your house of any coal sacks, propane tanks, or wood stacks.
That construction undertaking you’ve been working on in your backyard? Always remove materials, especially in the wildfire season.
Remember that anything organic left lying about your house, such as mulch or leaf heaps, serves as fuel for the fire. If you have pine and juniper trees on your property, make sure to routinely remove fallen leaves and brush since these plants contain highly combustible oils and resins.
Well-watered vegetation serves as a good line of defense against flames. Even falling leaves and other scattered materials might start fires. Indeed, a thriving garden can aid in keeping embers away from your house.
Homeowners in wildfire-prone areas need to prioritize their safety. Be prepared as wildfires spread across more areas of the nation and the wildfire season lengthens every year. Knowing what is covered by your homeowner’s insurance might provide you the much-needed peace of mind after a natural disaster.
Resources from the National Fire Protection Association can help you learn more about how to defend your house, your neighborhood, and yourself against wildfires.
If you have any questions about how your particular home insurance policy, please reach out to your Hertvik Insurance agent.