Hot, dry weather sparks late wildfire season
BCAA says it’s not too late for homeowners to take precautions against wildfires
(Burnaby, B.C.): Despite the late start to B.C.'s wildfire season, summer temperatures are hitting highs throughout the province resulting in flare-ups such as those in the Falkland and West Kelowna areas forcing over 500 people from their homes. Hot, dry weather is expected to continue for at least another week, increasing the risk of wildfires and putting nearby homes and communities in danger. The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) says it’s not too late for homeowners, especially those in or around heavily forested areas, to still take precautions to safeguard their families and homes against wildfires.
After handling hundreds of wildfire related insurance claims and assisting homeowners during some of B.C.'s most destructive wildfires in 2003 and 2009, BCAA has learned more about what can make a home vulnerable to damage caused by a wildfire. BCAA advises the following smart, simple ways to prevent and reduce the risk of damage from wildfires:
- Surround your home with a 10 metre defensible space. Clear away any trees, brush, and firewood that could add fuel to a fire. Use driveways, lawns and gravel to create a fuel break wherever possible. Don’t store gas/propane tanks under decks or porches.
- Assess your roof. Clear away overhanging trees and combustible debris such as pine needles and other vegetation that could act as fuel for airborne sparks and embers.
- Be visible in an emergency. Make sure emergency crews can see your address clearly from the road. Be an advocate in your community for visible, fireproof street signs.
- Be "Firesmart" inside your house. Keep one or more fire extinguishers charged and easily accessible. Develop a fire safety plan which includes a home fire drill. Practice your home fire escape plan regularly.
- Don't let occasional-use vehicles sit uninsured. It's smart to keep recreational and other occasional-use vehicles (e.g. boats, RVs, collectible cars) insured at all times not only so they can be moved quickly in the event of a wildfire evacuation, but also so they are protected against year-round threats such as hail, arson or vandalism.
- Prepare for the worst. Keep an itemized list or video recording of your belongings in a safe place, such as a bank safe deposit box. Ensure your home and belongings are adequately insured, and that your policy is up to date. During natural disasters, such as wildfires, insurance companies may place temporary restrictions on accepting new business, making the instant purchase or upgrading of insurance exceptionally difficult.
Residents in areas with moderate to high fire danger ratings or on evacuation alert should consider the following to ensure their home insurance provides the protection they need:
- Contact your insurance advisor to learn precisely what your policy covers. Many people simply renew their insurance year after year without reviewing their coverage.
- Move valuables and irreplaceable items to a safe location.
- Locate vital documents (e.g. passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, etc.) and other critical items such as prescription medication. Keep them handy and ready to move if evacuated.
- Take photos or videos of items in the home that are not able to be moved (e.g. furniture, antiques, electronics). Do the same with any landscaping such as trees, shrubs and plants.
- Move additional vehicles (such as RVs, boats, antique cars) to a safe location. Basic liability insurance may be obtained to move vehicles, but coverage for physical damage may not be currently available in fire-affected areas. Contact your insurance advisor for details.
To learn more about how you can protect your home and property against a forest fire read The Home Owners Firesmart Manual available in the Wildfire Prevention section of the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch website at bcwildfire.ca. For questions about home insurance coverage in a forest fire, consult with your local insurance advisor.