Are Wildfires Covered by Home Insurance?

Lucy Lazarony
November 3, 2020

Your homeowners insurance typically helps to cover damage to your home and your belongings from a wildfire. A standard homeowners policy helps protect against specific perils such as fire. That said, your insurance coverage may vary by geographic location and by policy. So check with your insurance company to verify that your homeowners policy protects you against a wildfire.

Be aware that some insurance companies do not sell homeowners policies in areas where wildfires are common. So if you live near a forest or mountainous region, you may be turned down for insurance coverage because of your location and its proximity to wildfires. If you are approved for a homeowners policy, review it carefully. Does it cover wildfires? How much is the coverage? What are the limits? And is there a deductible? How much is the deductible? You want to know the ins and outs of your coverage. This is especially true in cases of disaster such as a wildfire. Let’s take a closer look at insurance coverage and wildfires.

Dwelling Protection

This type of homeowners protection covers your home and any attached structures such as a deck or a garage. If your home gets damaged by wildfire, dwelling protection may help to pay for repairs to your house plus rebuilding expenses.

Personal Property Protection

Your belongings such as your clothes, furniture and electronics are usually covered in a standard homeowners insurance policy. But there may be limits to the protection. So check your policy for details.

Getting Additional Living Expenses

Your home insurance may cover the cost of renting a home while your home is being repaired from a fire. This useful coverage does have its limits. So be sure to check the details of your policy.

Protection for Landscaping

Homeowners insurance may offer limited insurance coverage for plants, shrubs, trees and lawns when damage is caused by a covered peril such as fire. So check with your home insurance policy on coverage for your home’s landscaping.

Keep a Home Inventory

Having a record of all that you own in a home inventory will be very helpful in the time of a loss due to a fire. So keep photos and receipts of your belongings so you’ll know just what is missing or damaged if a disaster such as a wildfire strikes. Picking up the pieces is difficult. Knowing your home inventory will make it a bit easier.

Protection for Your Cars

Comprehensive coverage on your automobile covers damages caused by fire. If you don’t have this coverage, you’ll need to pay for damages to your vehicle out of your own pocket. If the repairs are greater than the value of the car, it may be totaled.

But if the damage is less severe, the car may be repaired. Comprehensive coverage comes with a deductible and you’ll need

to pay your deductible before any repairs can be reimbursed.

Wildfire and Your Business

A business owners policy covers fire damage to an office building, office space and office equipment. A business property insurance policy also covers damages for fire so if you have either of these two insurance policies, your office property will be protected from damages for fire.

Business interruption insurance, also called business income insurance, covers the profits a business would have earned if the disaster such as a fire hadn’t occurred. This insurance also covers the increase in operating expenses following a fire.

Safeguard Important Papers

It’s a good idea to keep copies of important papers away from your house and in a safe deposit box. This way you don’t risk them being lost in a fire.

Review Policy Limits

Make sure you have enough homeowners insurance to protect yourself and your family should a disaster such as a fire strike. This is especially true if you live in an area where wildfires are common.

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Making a Wildfire Claim

Contact your insurance professional as soon as possible. An insurance adjuster will come by your house to assess the fire damage. And they will need you to fill out a proof of loss form. This form asks for a description of each damaged item, the date of purchase and the cost to repair or replace the item.

Keep Damaged Items

Keep damaged items until an insurance adjuster has the chance to review them. It will be tempting to want to clean up. Wait a little longer. Once you turn in your proof of loss form and an insurance adjuster has reviewed all the items, you’ll have plenty of time to clean up.

Know Time Limits for Making a Claim

Insurance policies generally place a time limit on filing insurance claims following a fire or other disaster. These time limits vary from state to state. Check with your insurance company about time limits for your claim. Don’t delay. The sooner you get a claim in, the sooner repair work can be done on your house.

About Wildfires

Wildfires are especially prone to happen during drought conditions in mountains, foothills and grassy areas. Wildfires are hard to contain and consume everything in their path burning down landscapes and homes. Thirty-eight states are at risk for wildfires. California is known for its wildfires but Texas has been known to have twice the wildfires as California in any given year.

Protecting Your Home from Wildfires

Here are some tips from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety on ways to prevent wildfires from reaching your home.

Keep a five-foot diameter of gravel, brick or concrete in an area adjacent to your home. Also clear between five feet and 30 feet from your home. Move trailers and recreational vehicles and storage sheds from the area or build a five-foot diameter of gravel, brick, or concrete around the items. Remove shrubs under trees, prune branches that may be over hanging the house, thin trees and remove any dead vegetation. Regularly clean your roof and gutters. This will keep debris from being ignited by wind-blown embers. Keep combustible items far from your house. Wood, plastic, including playground equipment should be at least 30 feet away from the house.

How to Evacuate from a Wildfire

The first thing to do is Identify where to go in an evacuation. Give yourself plenty of options. For example, you could go to the home of a friend or family member. You could go to a hotel or a shelter. Keep phone numbers and addresses of each option with you. And make your plans well in advance.

Map out primary routes and backup routes to your destination. Keep a physical map of the area in case GPS satellite transmissions aren’t working. Arrange a designated area for family members to meet in case you get separated. Put evacuation plans in writing and share them with all family members. Include all phone numbers and needed addresses. Here are some important items to take with you when you evacuate your home: prescriptions and other medications, first aid kit, bottled water, flashlight, radio, clothing and bedding, laptop, pet foods and cherished photos.

Important Documents to Take with You

You’ll want to keep these important documents in one place so you’ll be able to grab them in case of an evacuation. These important documents include: prescriptions, birth and marriage certificates, passports, driver’s license, Social Security cards, insurance policies, recent tax returns, employment information, wills and deeds, stocks, bonds, bank, savings and retirement account numbers, recent tax returns and your home inventory.

Insurance Wildfire Help and Discounts

USAA gives discounts for homeowners who live in a Firewise community. This designation comes from the National Fire Protection Association and affirms residents have reduced their fire risk.

State Farm has joined with the National Fire Protection Association for Wildlife Community Preparedness Day for the past seven years. The day features wildfire safety activities for residents. Chubb offers Wildfire Defense Services to residents in states where wildfires are prevalent. The program includes onsite wildfire hazard assessments with recommendations for ways to protect your home in the event of a wildfire plus the deploying of certified fire professionals to your home if a wildfire is threatening your area. After the threat has passed, there is help with removing fire-blocking gel that may have been applied to your home. SmartFinancial can help you make sure your home is protected with the best and cheapest home insurance policy. Begin comparing rates from top companies by inputting your zip code below.

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