Every year there are more than a hundred thousand wildfires across North America and experts say that this number is rising. Alberta and British Columbia are two provinces in Canada that have experienced wildfires in recent years. The wildfire of 2019 that started in Alberta due to lightning and human causes is still raging on, but under control.
Wildfires are extremely dangerous as their speed is moderate and they destroy everything in their path. This is the reason why Canadian home insurance companies have brought out comprehensive insurance to protect people, their families and their homes & possessions.
Insurance coverage provided against wildfire in Canada
Wildfires are a risk and like every other risk are covered by insurance. The home and business insurance policies issued by Canadian home insurance companies cover fire damage. Fire damage includes cover from the fire and the damages caused as a result of the fire.
This includes damage from smoke and damage from water or fire retardant that is sprayed on homes and all that stuff that causes damage to homes and belongings. People have the misconception that Acts of God or acts of Nature are excluded, but that is not the case.
Mandatory evacuation orders issued by civil authorities
In cases where residents are ordered to leaves their homes by civil authorities in the face of an imminent damages to their lives, homes and properties as a result of wildfires, then most homeowner’s and tenant’s insurance policies provide protection for reasonable additional living expenses for a specified period of time.
To minimize last minute panic and anxiety, all Canadian home insurance companies recommend buying home insurance in advance as it is easily available across all provinces of Canada including Alberta. This is the best thing to do as it provides home owners with a safety net and also brings them peace of mind.
Buying home insurance and renewing existing home insurance in the face of wildfires
Buying home insurance might be difficult if there is an active wildfire threatening a home or a community, until at least the wildfire is contained or the threat passes away.
Canadian home insurance companies can easily be reached by homeowners who are at risk of wildfires. They have many queries and concerns. For instance they are not sure whether their existing home insurance policies include coverage for wildfires, or not, whether the cover is adequate, or not, and what extra cover might be required.
In all such cases Canadian home insurance companies will typically renew home insurance policies when a wildfire is threatening a home or community, however they may not allow homeowners to make any substantial changes in the existing policy, or purchase a new policy.
If a homeowner has purchase a new property during the active wildfire season, then an insurance quote could include a condition on insurability. Where a homeowner is unable to secure coverage, then in that case closing of the deal can be postponed or cancelled.
Claims process in the event of damage caused by wildfires
Most Canadian home insurance companies recommend the following steps in the event of damage caused by wildfires:
– Assess the damages and prepare a document mentioning the damages.
– Ideally you should take photographs of the damage.
– Mention the date and time of the loss, if it is available.
– Establish contact with your insurance representative and/ or your insurance company. Ideally you should call them up.
– Prepare a list of all damaged or destroyed items.
– If possible, put together proofs of purchase of the items, their photographs, receipts and warranties. Take photos of the damage and keep the damaged items in your possession, unless they pose a health hazard.
– If you had to order a cleanup, then you should keep safely all the receipts related to the cleanup.
– If you were subject to a mandatory evacuation, then also keep the receipts of your living expenses.
– Put your questions to your insurance representative in case you are unsure of what living expenses you’re entitled to be reimbursed for as a result of the wildfire evacuation and for what period of time.
Follow up steps on the claims lodged
After you have reported a loss, most Canadian home insurance companies appoint a claims adjuster to look at your claim. As wildfires affect many people, it may be some time before you are contacted by a claims adjuster.
Typically, a claims adjuster investigates the circumstances leading to your loss, reviews the documents that you have submitted and explains you the process. It is advisable for you to take notes during the discussion. If you have any questions, this is the best time to raise them.
Your insurer will provide you a Proof of Loss form that you have to fill up and complete, in order to list the property and items that have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the wildfires. Additionally, you have to provide a corresponding value or cost of the damage or loss. At the end of the form, you have to sign and swear that the statements you have made in the form are true.
Addressing questions and queries with your insurer
Some homeowners have a lurking fear that their claims would not be entertained, in case they are not filed right away. This is not correct. It is a best practice to contact your insurer at the earliest, ideally with a couple of days of the wildfires and to keep receipts safely with you. This will be helpful as you will be able to produce them when required.
As a home insurance policy holder, you are entitled to reimbursement of living expenses from day one of the evacuation, and you can file a claim for these expenses, even before you return home.
Even though your home might be covered and protected from wildfires under a home insurance policy, it is a best practice to fireproof your home to protect the vulnerable areas in it. This will ensure that the structure is safe and loss is minimized in case a wildfire does occur.