Wildfires: Tips to Protect Your Home
What to do if you’re on evacuation alert or already evacuated.
Prepare your home
- Create a 10 metre defensible space. Check around your property and if possible, clear away any trees, brush and woodpiles that could add fuel to a fire. Keep grass cut and well-watered as regulations allow. Use driveways, lawns and gravel to create a fuel break wherever possible.
- Check for flammable materials. Remove firewood away from your house. Do not store combustible items such as propane and natural gas 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. Keep all eaves troughs clear of dry material.
- Don't let occasional-use vehicles sit uninsured. Keep recreational and other occasional-use vehicles (e.g. boats, RVs, collectible cars) insured at all times so they can be moved quickly in the event of a wildfire evacuation.
- 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.
- Develop a fire safety plan. Make sure it includes a home fire drill. Practice your home fire escape plan with your family.
- Prepare for the worst. Keep an itemized list or video record of your belongings. Take photos or videos of possessions such as jewelry, electronics and furniture. Document significant renovations and improvements made to your home. Don’t forget landscaping items such as trees, shrubs and plants.
- 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
- Move valuables and irreplaceable items to a safe location. Upload important documents or precious digital photos to a ‘cloud’ or onto a portable hard drive that you can take with you.
- 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.
- If it's safe, 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 agent for details.
- Contact your insurance agent to learn precisely what your policy covers. Many people simply renew their insurance year after year without reviewing their coverage.
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.
For those on evacuation
- Keep all receipts for living expenses incurred due to evacuation (e.g. accommodation, meals, toiletries, etc.). Most home insurance policies will cover a certain amount of additional living expenses for those forced to evacuate their homes. As with any fire-related claim, the base policy deductible, which is usually $500, applies to additional living expenses.
- Contact your insurance advisor to learn precisely what your policy covers. Many people simply renew their insurance year after year without reviewing their coverage.
- To make a claim or to obtain emergency funds, contact your insurance company right away. Most companies have a 24-hour emergency claims line. BCAA’s 24-hour number is 1-888-268-BCAA (2222) or you can make a claim online at bcaa.com/makeaclaim
BCAA is standing by to answer insurance-related questions. Contact us in person or by phone at one of our Service Locations near you or by phone to our Member Contact Centre at 1-888-268-BCAA (2222).
FAQs from insurance policy holders
Am I covered for a loss resulting from a wildfire?
Fire damage is covered under most home insurance policies and this includes damage from forest fires.
Am I covered for mass evacuation?
Most insurance policies will cover you for mass evacuation in the event of a wildfire as long as the government, police, fire department or civil authority has ordered you to leave your home. Your home insurance policy should cover any necessary and additional living expenses you incur up to your policy limits, and subject to the policy deductible. Keep a copy of all hotel and meal receipts to give to your insurance provider.
Are my belongings insured while I’m away from my home?
Most insurance policies will cover the items you take temporarily away from your home, just as they would if they were left in your residence.
Is smoke damage from the fires covered? Is damage incurred from fire retardant outside my home covered?
Most home insurance policies cover smoke damage caused from fires, as well as any damage incurred to your home or personal property from firefighting efforts, including the red fire retardant or other substances used by fire department personnel.
How do I file a claim?
If you have insurance coverage with BCAA and need to file a claim, call the 24-hour emergency claims number at: 1-888-268-BCAA (2222). You can also make a claim online at bcaa.com/makeaclaim or visit a local BCAA Service Centre to speak to an insurance advisor.