Insurance and wildfire tips for safeguarding your home

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of losing a home to wildfires. But every year, there are an average of 2,000 wildfires in this province, and one-third of the province is now under a 'moderate to extreme' wildfire danger rating, with elevated risks in the Okanagan, Kootenays and south Vancouver Island. So how should people be safeguarding their property against potential fire damage? 

Karen Hopkins-Lee, Chief Underwriter for Canadian Direct Insurance in Vancouver, shared tips on how to safeguard a home against the threat of wildfires, as well as advice for insurance when disaster strikes. 

"If you are in a high-risk area, and you have a forest in your back yard, installing a rooftop sprinkler is something that you should seriously consider," said Hopkins-Lee. Not only does it help put out fires, but it also reduces insurance costs from around five to ten per cent. 

She also suggests home owners -- and renters -- check that they are covered by insurance for wildfires.

"You can be devastated by fires, whether you are a home owner or renting," she said. "It doesn't matter who you are, proper insurance is something that everyone should have."

She urged new home buyers and renters to look for safeguards such as sprinkler systems, a remote smoke alarm and fire-resistant materials.

"If you are in a townhouse, look at if there is a firewall between each home," she advised, saying that a fire in one unit can quickly spread without adequate protection.

And in the worst-case scenario of a wildfire spreading to your home? 

"Have a record of your belongings," she said. "Keep photographs of your home, if you have the time, itemize everything." 

Photographs provide proof to insurers of what you owned prior to the fire, and Hopkins-Lee emphasized that photos of your property -- even seemingly trivial things -- can help recover the costs.

"If you have the forest fire situations that we see in Kelowna, or even more devastating, in Slave Lake, you're literally going back to ashes," she said. "So it's not just the big stuff -- your Chesterfield, your stereo, your computer, but also your forks, socks, towels, etc. All of those things add up, so it's great to keep photos in a deposit box."

"Preparation is key," she advised. "By the time homeowners receive a wildfire warning, it’s often too late to protect your property, so the time to start preparing is now.”

 

Canadian Direct Insurance offers the following homeowner protection tips:  

WILDFIRE DAMAGE PREVENTION & INSURANCE TIPS

  • Get your home evaluated by your insurance agent. 
    Make sure you have proper coverage, especially after big home renovations. If you rent or own a condo, make sure you also have contents insured.
  • Remove bushy or dead plants from a minimum of 10 metres around your home.  

  • Create a concrete or gravel walkway around your home to provide a barrier.
  • Use fire-resistant materials for the exterior walls of your home, such as brick, stucco or concrete.
  • Use fire-resistant roofing materials. Flammable roofing was a main cause of home loss in the 2003 Kelowna wildfires. Spark arrestors on chimneys are also encouraged.
  • Clear gutters of combustible debris like pine needles. 
  • Install dual-pane thermal windows. They reduce the radiated heat passing through and provide more protection.
  • Store firewood and propane tanks away from your home. 
     
  • Call *5555 on your cell phone if you spot a wildfire. 

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