BC forest fires

It was a hot, rough summer in 2009 for B.C. with the wildfire situation
For the most current information about the fire situation in B.C. click here for updated Wildfire News.

What happened in the Terrace Mountain and Kelowna areas:
The fire crews in B.C. got help from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta.

Alyson Couch of the B.C. Forest Service, stated that the fire danger is moderate to high, with certain southern portions of the province, rated as extreme.

Of the 2,200 people evacuated by the Terrace Mountain fire, about half had permission to return to the Fintry area.

Three separate fires started on July 18. One is from two points in the hills overlooking Kelowna. Another fire about 10 km from Glenrose, in Rose Valley. Kelowna RCMP have arrested a man, after witnesses allegedly saw him set a brush fire in a residential area across the lake from one of the three earlier fires. This fire was doused before it reached the tree line.

Lightning strikes have started 35 new fires. There is continued danger from lightning strikes in the forested areas.

The RCMP patrol the evacuated areas, and warned people who stayed behind that they should leave. The danger was so evident, that the RCMP asked those who refused to leave, to provide their next of kin information and dental records, in case the house burns down and resulted in their death.

The history of the fires in 2003 that destroyed more than 200 homes, has everyone worried. The weather is hot and there has been little rain this spring, so it is very dry.

Steps you can take in this situation in regards to insurance and risk control:
Anyone who does not have fire insurance at this point, will have great difficulty in obtaining it, if they live in this area. Underwriters will deem the risk too high. Higher limits will also be denied so it is hoped that people have taken care to insure for reconstruction cost.

The usual rule is that if you need to place insurance, then you must be beyond 25 or 50 kms of the fire area. You could check to see if there is a company that will consider your needs if you are less then the 50 km, as not all companies have the same exact rules on what is acceptable to an underwriter.

Once you have been told to evacuate by authorities, or put on any kind of evacuation alert by authorities, then you cannot buy specified perils or comprehensive coverage for your vehicles. You can ask for the PLPD (liability) coverage to move a threatened vehicle. The insurance answer to this problem is that if you have been ordered to store your units at a special area, then you can buy a storage policy to protect your units. This should not affect a renewal policy.

If you did not have Specified Perils coverage on your vehicles or physical damage coverage on your trailers, then it will be carefully considered before it is added. Talk to your broker or agent. This coverage should likely become more available once an evacuation order has been lifted.

There have been reports of theft. Thieves rode in on ATVs and have stolen computers, jewellery and other valuables from some of the homes. When this type of break and enter occurs, there is also damage to property as they ransack a home.

The insurance answer is that fire is a basic coverage. If you have insured your home and contents correctly, you should be able to rebuild. Additional living costs will be compensated, and your pet can be placed in a kennel.

How well you are insured can be controlled by the time you have taken to do an accurate inventory, and providing adequate coverage for your contents. The Insurance Bureau of Canada provides a good software program for household inventory at their website. Have you updated your coverage for current rebuilding costs? Do you know what you have? Find out.

If you have suffered a loss of theft or other contents damage, you will be required to produce replacement values for these items. Most policies will have a limit on easily converted through a pawn shop items like jewellery, coin collections and fine arts.

Your broker or agent can talk to you about your policy. Be aware that in a claim situation, the insurance company adjuster or independent adjuster working on behalf of your insurer, is the person in authority. Your broker cannot confirm nor deny coverage.

What is the insurance answer to preventing a fire claim? Some suggestions you could consider include surrounding your home with a 10 metre low fuel belt. This involves clearing away any brush, trees, firewood or gas and propane tanks that could add fuel to a fire. Use your lawn, driveway and/or gravel to create a fuel break to protect your home.

Consider the fire reaching from the trees to your roof. It is recommended that you clear trees that overhang your home. Remove pine needles or other dried vegetation that might act as fuel for sparks or embers. The non-combustible roofing material such as metal, slate, tile or clay may even gain you a discount on your home insurance.

Have good signage. Fireproof street signs and having your house number on the garage, can guide in a rescue crew.

Exercise proper home safety. Change your batteries on your smoke detectors at least once a year. Consider having more than one fire extinguisher. Check that your barbecue equipment is working properly. Do not barbecue close to your home or near combustibles. Consider how to dispose of hot embers, if you are using a charcoal barbecue.

After you have returned home from being evacuated, you have some special considerations. Do check our article on what to do after being evacuated under the "See Also".

If you need to report a wildfire, contact the the B.C. Forest Service at 1-800-663-5555.