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A True Claims Story: Evacuating the 2023 West Kelowna wildfires

Imagine it is peak wildfire season, your house is threatened by a wildfire, then you get the chilling order: EVACUATE NOW. That’s what happened to Scott Finemore who fled the largest wildfire in West Kelowna history.

The McDougall Creek Wildfire began August 15, 2023, and by August 17, Scott, his wife Terri and their two children were among 35,000 people ordered to evacuate their Okanagan communities. The BC Wildfire Service and over 500 firefighters battled the blazes for weeks.

“We lived in the centre of the wildfire’s path,” says Scott. “And it’s the Okanagan, near the wineries, so the area is very dry.

“I was staining wood and watching this tiny little amount of smoke crest the ridge behind our house. It seemed like a harmless white puffy cloud, until it wasn’t. It turned dark grey, winds picked up and things became surreal – it became ominous and threatening very quickly. It was time to leave.”

Despite the stress of having to uproot the family and abandon their home, Scott says they did two things right:

Removed trees and fuel from sides of his house

“When we saw how the fire hit some [of our neighbouring] houses, I was relieved we removed as many trees and brush as we did,” he says. When the fire started, Scott was building in his backyard, so he had piles of oil-stained cedar posts and beams – all leaning against the house.

“I basically had kindling against my house. Just before evacuating, I spent hours moving it far from the house,” says Scott. “That was stressful. Now every spring I’ll clear away leaves and dead brush.”

Smoky skies illuminated by wildfire appear over a home in the forest

Image courtesy of Scott Finemore

Insured the house with BCAA

When comparing insurance claim experiences with his neighbours, Scott’s was a great one.

“35,000 people were evacuated and BCAA called me back in an hour. That was pretty impressive. It immediately started the claim on a very pleasant, empathetic foot,” says Scott.

In his scramble to evacuate, Scott packed tank tops, board shorts and flip flops – he said it felt ‘almost like we were going on vacation’.

“I figured we’d be gone a couple days, not two weeks. Then the temperatures dropped from 38 degrees to 11 degrees at night. I was totally unprepared.”

Scott says his BCAA Home Insurance adjuster told him to get clothes for his family, to keep the receipts and they’d reconcile everything. “There’s a clause that says you're covered up to $10,000 for emergency supplies and accommodations,” he adds.

Scott and his husky

The Finemore family, including their pets, stayed in the Okanagan Valley; eyes glued to the TV news. They had no idea if their house would burn, as their video doorbell went offline before the fires.

“Fortunately, our house survived. Two weeks after we were evacuated, the order was lifted.” But Scott reveals not everyone was so fortunate. “You’d hear one house was in perfect condition but the house next door burned to the ground. Everything gone except the chimney.”

The BCAA adjuster, Morgan, made the Finemore family’s return a smooth one, sharing advice on things to look out for – like the freezer being inoperable due to the power outage and processing reimbursements for spoiled food and cleaning.

Scott talked with friends who empathized about how challenging his claim experience may be, but that was simply not the case. “You hear so many of these negative stories like ‘Insurance companies try to find a way to deny your claim’ and that was the total opposite of my experience,” he says.

“The fairness with how BCAA treated us was exemplary. I told my friends if you're not experiencing this, and you went through the same thing I did, the only thing different is your insurance company."

“My experience has been nothing but positive. It was real peace of mind especially because an evacuation is so life-shaking. Knowing someone has your back removes one huge element of stress.”

So, where does this ‘claim gone wrong’ myth come from?

“People tend to talk about negative experiences more than positive ones, because of the heavy financial impact, and the disappointment of being caught in that situation,” explains BCAA Claims Director Shana Johnston.

“At BCAA, we look at every claim individually and address it on its own merits to see what can be covered. We are in the business to pay claims, so we start off from a place of, what’s being presented to us? And what can we cover?”

A ‘claim gone right’ often comes down to having the right coverage and understanding what is covered in your policy, she adds.

“At BCAA, we pride ourselves in having simple, straightforward plans that are easy to understand for our customers.”

FireSmart BC home assessment being performed by woman in a blue uniform with tablet

Image courtesy of FireSmart

How you can get peace of mind this wildfire season

Concerned your community could be impacted by wildfires? Here’s how you can prepare your home this upcoming wildfire season.

Ask for your free FireSmart™ home assessment

BCAA has teamed up with FireSmart to create the BCAA FireSmart initiative to develop resources to help you prepare for BC wildfire season. If you’re an eligible property owner who lives in a community where the Home Partners Program is offered, you can get a FREE home assessment and expert advice on how to reduce your wildfire risk. Plus, you’ll be eligible for a discount on BCAA Home Insurance.

Well before the summer heat, we recommend you get your extreme weather plan in place with FireSmart BC.

Secure trusted home insurance coverage

It’s important your insurance policy is straightforward, yet comprehensive, so you understand what’s covered in the event of a claim. Get a quote with BCAA Home Insurance and find the coverage that’s right for you. Save 5% when you buy online plus and an extra 10% when you’re a BCAA Member*.



*BCAA Member savings on insurance products are available with Basic, Plus, or Premier Membership plans. For full details, please visit
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