Not a rare occurrence (especially in California), a wildfire can cause tremendous damage to any structure in its fiery path.
Uncontrolled fire can quickly wipe out large areas of land before it extinguishes. Entire forests and almost all organic matter contained within it will be destroyed after a fire burns for days or weeks. If a wildfire strikes this fragile ecosystem, the air and water will be badly polluted, the soils will be degraded, and every other element will be negatively affected.
There are a few factors that can cause a wildfire to burns more acreage, more quickly. First, wind provides a fresh supply of oxygen and can change the direction of the fire, moving it toward new areas with new fuel. Second, in hot climates with low humidity, plants dry out and are more likely to burn. Third, wildfires move faster uphill so the steeper the slope, the faster they burn. Fourth, fires travel faster from fuel to fuel when they’re close in proximity.
These factors combined are exactly why California is such a hot bed for wildfires. However, just because you live here doesn’t mean you can’t protect your property against them.
Here is what you need to know to stay safe and get your home insured against such a tragedy!
Compelling California Wildfire Statistics
Just in the single month of September, 2017, there were more than 20 active wildfires in the state of California, four of which triggered emergency declarations. So far in 2017, 232,936 acres have been burned.
According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, many of the 3,231 wildland fires incidents in 2015 were by ignited by:
- Debris Burning (454)
- Lightning (352)
- Vehicles (256 fires)
- Arson (253)
- Electrical Power (252)
- Equipment Use (241)
- Campfire (120)
The worst California wildfire (started by a lost hunter) was the Cedar Fire of 2003. This blaze killed 15 people and destroyed 2,232 homes.
What to Do Before, During, and After a Wildfire
If a wildfire is looming, it’s important not to panic. Knowing what you can do to prepare yourself beforehand, what to do during, and how to proceed after a fire is the first step in protecting your family and your home.
Before a Wildfire
During a Wildfire
Leave as soon as evacuation is recommended by fire officials. Follow advised evacuation routes. Know what to do if you become trapped.
After a Wildfire
Wear protective clothing and use caution as you drive to your property. Be on the lookout for road damage and debris. Be aware that trees, rocks, and utility poles may be weak or loose. If there are any signs of utility damage on your property, do not attempt to turn anything on, stay clear, and call your local utility company. Check your home inside and out for still-glowing embers. Assess fire, smoke, and water damage.
As soon as possible, contact your insurance agent for instructions on how to proceed with filing an insurance claim.
When and How to Purchase Wildfire Insurance
Californians who live in high-fire areas are especially aware of the risk to their homes, yet they may find it difficult to get proper wildfire coverage without having to purchase very expensive “Force Placed Insurance”. This can be due to a number of reasons including the specific topography of the area, the distance to the nearest fire station and water supply, the Public Protection Classification (fire risk), and the FireLine score (your home’s risk).
Fortunately, there is another option that provides better coverage for a better value. Designated wildfire insurance gives homeowners adequate coverage to rebuild their home (and bring it up to code) should it be destroyed. Such coverage may also include repair or replacement of smoke-damaged or water-damaged household items and additional living expenses during a rebuild.
When you are shopping for wildfire insurance, ask your insurance broker the following questions:
- Will I pay a higher premium if my home is near a fire-prone area?
- Are there discounts available if I take steps to protect my home from wildfire?
- Will my landscaping, out-buildings, and vehicle be covered if damaged or destroyed by the fire?
By getting the right coverage, you won’t be leaving your valuables and home up to chance.