According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States suffers from approximately 70,000 wildfires per year.
These wildfires cause fire damage to over 60,000 structures across the states, costing around $14.8 billion in property damage in 2021 alone.
If you live in one of the states with high wildfires risk, then this could be very scary.
After all, your house is at a very high risk of being damaged by forest fires and you could lose your home and valuable belongings without compensation, right?
Well, luckily, your standard homeowner’s insurance will indeed cover your home and belongings from numerous perils, including wildfires and forest fire damage.
However, the amount of money you get depends on many factors such as the state you live in, the fire protection class in your area, your policy type and limit, and many more.
For this reason, in this article, we will go through all the information you need so you can get the best possible wildfire insurance including:
- What will your homeowner’s insurance cover in the event of wildfires?
- How to make a wildfire damage claim?
- Tips on how to prevent wildfire damage
- What does a fire policy cover and NOT cover?
So without further ado, let’s jump right into it what your homeowner’s insurance policy covers.
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What does homeowner’s insurance cover?
1. Home Structural Damage (Dwelling Insurance)
In case of wildfires, your standard homeowner’s insurance policy will pay to rebuild or replace your home and the attached outbuilding structures such as garages, decks, toolsheds, etc.
Furthermore, some homeowner’s policies also offer limited coverage for landscaping and including plants, shrubs, trees, and lawns damaged by forest fires.
It’s important to mention that not all homeowner’s policies are equal, meaning that some policies have more coverage and will repay you more than others in case of a wildfire.
In general, there are two types of wildfire coverage:
A. Cash: This policy will only pay you a depreciated value, which in most cases won’t be sufficient to rebuild your home due to the inflation
B. Replacement Cost: This type of homeowners policy will give you enough money to rebuild your home (up to the policy limit of course). However, there are two disadvantages of replacement cost policies.
First, it costs way more than the cash policy.
The second disadvantage is that it still has a limit you can’t exceed and if your home is big enough, the policy won’t fully pay for your home rebuilding in case of wildfires.
For this reason, if you own a big house in a wildfire-prone area, we recommend you to opt for an endorsement to extend the limit on your policy, so it can fully cover the rebuilding cost of your home.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you live in a region with a high risk of wildfires, so do your neighbors.
In other words, in the event of a wildfire, many houses in your neighborhood will be damaged and all of them will need repairing at the same time.
In consequence, the demand for restoration companies in your area will greatly increase, resulting in higher costs of labor and building in your area. Thus, the policy won’t actually give you enough money to cover your home rebuilding.
For this reason, you need to be mindful of that when choosing a homeowners insurance policy for wildfires.
2. Personal Property Damage (Belongings Insurance)
In addition to your home and landscape coverage, homeowners insurance will also pay for your valuable damaged belongings such as furniture, apparel, electronics, etc
Moreover, if your belongings are being vandalized or theft in the wake of wildfires (wildfire looting), the homeowner’s policy covers that too.
Don’t forget that limits will apply, depending on the insurance company and where you live, so make sure to look around for homeowners insurance policies that will be sufficient enough to cover your losses if your home is damaged by wildfires.
Usually, belongings coverage is around 50% of the dwelling coverage, however, it can be increased if you have many valuable items.
Pro Tip: Create A Home Inventory
Keeping an up-to-date home inventory of all your belongings and their values can be very helpful when you need to file a wildfire claim, as we will see later in the how to make a fire claim section.
So, make sure to keep the receipts and copies of important files in a safe place (offsite or you will just lose them with the rest of your belonging in the event of wildfires).
3. Additional Life Expenses Coverage
Finally, the last thing the homeowner’s insurance cover in the event of forest fires is a place to live.
If a wildfire leaves your home uninhabitable, then your homeowner’s policy should repay you for any REASONABLE additional living expenses such as renting a house or hotel rooms till your home is inhabitable again.
In general, your insurance company will only pay for a place to live, but some policies can also cover things like food and fuel, so make sure to check with your insurance company beforehand.
How To Make A Wildfire Claim?
1. Contact Your Insurance Company As Soon As Possible
Each insurance company has a time limit on filing the claim (3 days on average), so the first thing you need to do in case of wildfire damage is to contact your insurance expert as quickly as possible. If you need help filing a fire damage claim, contact Restoration USA. We can help you get an inspection and quote for your insurance company 24/7, 365 days a year.
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2. Fill In A Proof-Of-Loss Form
Here is where the up-to-date home inventory comes in handy.
The proof of loss form will ask for a description of each damaged item such as price, date of purchase, and sometimes might also ask for the cost to replace and photos of the damaged item.
For this reason, make sure to keep photos, receipts, and important papers in a safe space such as a safe deposit box for example, so you can use them when filing the claim.
3. Keep Damaged Items
Once you contact your insurance company, they will send a professional inspector to assess the damage and make a suitable claim report, so make sure to not throw anything away until the inspector pays you a visit unless there is a health risk hazard of keeping it of course.
Tips To Prevent Wildfire Losses
For a fire to start, it needs 3 things: Heat, Oxygen, and Fuel to consume.
Sadly, we can’t control either the heat that starts the fire or the oxygen in the atmosphere (unless you have superpowers)
What we can do instead is to get rid of the flammable materials that help wildfires to spread such as wood, dead plants, debris, etc.
So here are a few tips to reduce the risk of wildfires damage:
- Use fireproof building materials such as concrete, and stale instead of wood and other flammable materials
- Space out your trees and trim any low hanging branches near your house
- Regularly clean your gutters from debris
- Make it a weekly routine to remove dead vegetation from underneath trees and mow your lawn
- Designate a safe space 30-100 feet away from your home. This safe place allows firefighters to safely defend your home against blazes and makes the firefighting process much easier and more efficient
1. Does fire insurance cover forest fires?
Yes, your fire insurance will cover the cost of forest fire damages, including home and outbuilding structure damages, belongings damage, landscape damage, and will even pay for hotel rooms if you lose your home to a fire and it became uninhabitable.
2. Does renter’s insurance cover wildfire damage?
Yes, your renter’s insurance policy will cover your property against many perils including wildfire.
So if your house is damaged by a fire, just contact your insurance company and they will send a professional inspector to assess the damage and make a suitable report to offer you proper compensation.
3. What is not covered in fire insurance?
While fire insurance policies cover you against a wide range of damages caused by fire, it doesn’t cover for damages caused by a number of events such as natural heating, fermentation, spontaneous combustion, pollution or contamination, and earthquakes.