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Why Being Fire Ready is More Important than Ever

A 2013 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report predicts the acreage burned by wildfires will double by 2050 to about 20 million acres annually in the US. Climate changes are likely influencing recent wildfire trends. Wildfire seasons are starting earlier, due to warmer spring temperatures and earlier snow melt, and they are lasting longer into the fall. Years with warmer spring temperatures and reduced spring snowpack tend to be the years with the most wildfires.

Protecting property from wildfire damage requires preventative action well before the flames start.

Protect Your Property

To reduce the chance of fire damage to your property, you’ll need to consider the fire resistance of your home, the topography of your property, and the nature of the surrounding vegetation. The work you do to minimize wildfire risk may entitle you to discounts on future homeowner’s insurance premiums – be sure to inquire with your agent. 

  • Use fire resistant roofing and building materials. 
  • Clear a natural firebreak around the home and outbuildings. 
  • Thin and remove brush from surrounding trees, bushes, and fields.
  • Move combustible materials away from home and from under deck.

Update Your Insurance

Check your homeowner’s insurance policy - do you have enough coverage in the event of a total loss catastrophe? Reviewing your policy now can prevent a disaster from striking twice. Once there is an impending disaster, insurance carriers may decide not to add or amend coverage.

Know whether you have replacement cost or actual cash value coverage. Replacement cost is the amount it would take to rebuild or replace your home and its contents with similar quality materials or goods. Actual cash value (ACV) is replacement cost minus depreciation.

  • Carefully re-read and understand your insurance policy, especially all endorsements/riders.
  • Check that your policy covers additional living expenses, including temporary housing, if you can’t return home.
  • Consider adding increased cost of construction or building ordinance coverage. This pays for any increased cost to replace or repair the home to meet requirements of current building laws or ordinances.
  • Consider special coverage for valuables. This covers jewelry, furs, stamps, coins, guns, computers, antiques, musical instruments, and other high-value possessions that exceed normal policy limits.

Create and Update Your Home Inventory

Building a home inventory is easy with this free checklist. Or you can download a home inventory app for iphone or android.

  • Make a list of your personal possessions.
  • Take photos and videotape your house and contents.
  • Keep receipts or other proof of the cost of high-value items.
  • Keep these records in a safe place away from your home.
  • Include the name and contact information of your insurance company and insurance agent.
  • Email these and other important documents to yourself so that you can retrieve them anywhere you have internet access.

Filing a Claim After a Fire

Immediately contact your insurance company or agent to report your loss. Take reasonable steps to protect against further loss but don’t rush into repairs or rebuilding before getting instructions from your adjuster. Your insurance company’s inspection may be necessary before repairs begin. Do not throw away damaged property until your adjuster tells you to do so. 

  • Keep copies and records of all communication between you and the adjuster.
  • Take photographs or video of the damage before things are cleaned up or repaired, to give to the adjuster.
  • Prepare a detailed list of destroyed or damaged items to help you settle the claim.
  • Wait on making permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.
  • If it's safe, make temporary repairs to prevent further damage by covering broken windows, leaking roofs, and damaged walls. Keep your receipts for the adjuster.
  • If you cannot stay in your home because of damage, most policies have coverage for additional living expenses while repairs are being made.
  • Save all receipts, including hotel stays, reasonable meals, and any necessities that you must buy.

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