BC Wildfires information
While it’s impossible to outsmart a fire, there are some things you can do to feel more prepared for wildfires in your neighbourhood. Read on to learn how to strengthen your defences around your home, keep your family safe, ensure you have the right insurance coverage, and know what to do if you are advised to evacuate your home.
BCAA’s priority is you, your family’s safety and ensuring you have the information you need. If your principal residence is insured with BCAA and it's in an evacuation zone, read on to learn about the types of coverage that are available to help you.
Am I covered for a loss resulting from a forest fire?
Yes, fire damage is covered under most home insurance policies, and this includes damage from forest fires. To learn more about your BCAA Home Insurance policy, visit bcaa.com/wordings. To confirm your coverage, including your coverage limits, please refer to your policy documents. You may have this in your email records or you can access by visiting bcaa.com/myaccount.
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.
What if my home is damaged or has already suffered a loss as a result of the fire?
BCAA is dedicated to making your claims experience as stress free as possible. Should you need to make a claim on your home, contact BCAA claims 1.888.268.BCAA (2222) or online at bcaa.com/makeaclaim. We’re available 24/7.
What is mass evacuation coverage?
BCAA will pay any necessary and reasonable additional living expenses incurred by you if you’re unable to live in your home due to a mandatory evacuation order. Up to $10,000 will be available to you so you can ensure your family has the essential everyday living items you need. Some examples of necessary and reasonable additional living expenses are food, accommodations, pet care, medication and clothes.
How do I access my mass evacuation coverage?
If you are evacuated from your home by mandatory evacuation order, please be sure to keep all receipts for living expenses such as food, accommodations, pet care, medication and clothes. To make a claim, call 1.888.268.BCAA (2222) or go online at bcaa.com/makeaclaim.
What if I am unable to live in my home?
You are covered for the cost of alternative accommodation and anything over and above everyday living expenses should you not be able to live in your home due to damage from the fire. Additional Living Expenses may include:
- Temporary accommodation
- Moving costs
- Restaurant meals
- Accommodation for your pets
Are my belongings insured while I’m away from my home?
Most home insurance policies will cover the items you take temporarily away from your home, just as they would if they were left in your residence.
The power is out. Is the food in my fridge and freezer covered?
Most home insurance policies will cover food spoilage, subject to your policy deductible.
Will the government provide coverage for costs that insurance doesn’t cover?
Please check with BC’s Public Safety & Emergency Services Department to learn more about government assistance programs in the event of a wildfire.
I have a BCAA home insurance policy but, with the forest fire approaching, I’m worried about the amount of coverage. Can I increase my coverage?
Unfortunately, if you live in an area currently being threatened by forest fires, we are not able to increase existing coverage until this threat passes.
My neighbour doesn’t have a BCAA Home Insurance policy. Can they buy it now?
Anyone in an area currently being threatened by forest fires is unfortunately not able to purchase a BCAA Insurance policy until the wildfire threat passes.
If anyone you know has suffered a loss or has questions about their coverage, please have them contact their local insurance broker. If they have any difficulty locating their broker or insurance company, the Insurance Bureau of Canada can help. Their number is 1.844.227.5422.
Where can I get more information on what my policy covers?
Your full home insurance policy wording has all the details about what’s covered - it can be found at bcaa.com/wordings. To confirm your coverage, including your coverage limits, please refer to your policy documents. You may have this in your email records or you can access by visiting bcaa.com/myaccount. If you have further questions, please call us at 1.888.268.2222.
I’ve heard a rumour that wildfires are considered “acts of god” and not covered by home insurance. Is this true?
Rest assured that wildfire damage is covered by BCAA Home Insurance. BCAA does not use the term “acts of god” when referring to what’s covered or what’s excluded from a policy. If you have any questions or concerns about your BCAA Home Insurance coverage, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can reach us at 1.888.268.2222.
How do I file a claim?
Am I covered for a loss resulting from a forest fire?
If you have purchased comprehensive coverage as part of your BCAA Optional Car Insurance policy, your vehicle is insured against damage resulting from fire, smoke and falling or flying objects. You may also have access to included benefits to support you and your family in the event of a claim resulting from a forest fire.
How do I initiate a claim?
In the unfortunate event of a claim, it depends on which insurance company you have purchased your comprehensive coverage from:
- BCAA Optional Car Insurance Policy
- Please call our 24-Hour BCAA Optional Claim service at: 1.888.592.1111.
- Visit icbc.com/claims to report a claim 24 hours a day.
If my vehicle is a total loss, how much will I receive in compensation?
If your vehicle is a total loss, the insurer will base the settlement value on the Actual Cash Value of the vehicle at time of loss. BCAA also offers replacement coverage options that will replace your vehicle in the event of a total loss.
I have a BCAA Optional Car Insurance policy but, with the forest fire approaching, I’m worried about the amount of coverage. Can I increase my coverage or reduce my deductible?
If you live in an area currently being threatened by forest fires, we are not able to increase existing coverage until this threat passes.
I would like to move my RV and other car which are not insured to a safe location. Can I get temporary insurance on these to move them?
ICBC’s Temporary Operating Permits provide temporary insurance coverage for vehicles. Contact your insurance advisor to see if this coverage is available from ICBC.
My neighbour doesn’t have a BCAA Optional Car Insurance policy. Can they buy it now?
Anyone in an area currently being threatened by forest fires is unfortunately not able to purchase a BCAA Optional Car Insurance policy until the wildfire threat passes.
If anyone you know has suffered a loss, or has questions about their coverage, please have them contact their local insurance broker. If they have any difficulty locating their broker or insurance company, the Insurance Bureau of Canada can help. Their number is 1.844.227.5422.
Where can I get more information on what my optional car insurance policy covers?
Your full optional car insurance policy wording has all the details about what's covered - it can be found at bcaa.com/wordings. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to BCAA if you have any specific questions or concerns. You can reach us at 1.888.268.2222.
I’ve heard a rumour that wildfires are considered “acts of god” and are not covered by optional car insurance. Is this true?
If you have comprehensive coverage through BCAA Optional Car Insurance, your vehicle is covered for wildfire damage. BCAA does not use the term “acts of god” when referring to what’s covered or what’s excluded from a policy. If you have any questions or concerns about your BCAA Optional Car Insurance please don’t hesitate to contact us. You can reach us at 1.888.268.2222.
Is my business covered for a loss resulting from a forest fire?
Yes, fire damage is covered under BCAA Small Business Insurance policies, and this includes damage from forest fires.
Is smoke damage from the fires covered? Is damage incurred from fire retardant outside my business covered?
Most BCAA Small Business Insurance policies cover smoke damage caused from fires, as well as any damage incurred to your business or property from firefighting efforts, including the red fire retardant or other substances used by fire department personnel.
What if my business is damaged or has already suffered a loss as a result of the fire?
BCAA is dedicated to making your claims experience as stress free as possible. Should you need to make a claim on your small business insurance, contact BCAA claims 1.888.268.BCAA (2222) or online at bcaa.com/makeaclaim. We’re available 24/7.
What if I am unable to operate my business?
BCAA Small Business Insurance provides Business Interruption as an optional coverage. If an insured loss has stopped you from running your business, give our BCAA Small Business Advisors a call at 1.888.268.BCAA (2222).
Where can I get more information on what my policy covers?
Your BCAA Small Business Insurance coverages can be found on the policy Declaration Page. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any specific questions or concerns. You can reach us at 1.888.268.BCAA (2222).
How do I file a claim?
Prepare for BC Wildfire Season with BCAA
We’ve gathered our top tips and resources to help you create an emergency plan for your family and protect your home.
Make an emergency plan and make sure your family knows it
Plan how you'll get safely out of your home and community should you be evacuated. Make sure your family, including young children, know your evacuation route, how you'll communicate with each other and where to meet up if you get separated. Evacuations can happen on a moment's notice, so advanced planning is critical.
Create an emergency kit
Prepare an emergency kit at home that can sustain you and your family for at least 72 hours. For a limited time, BCAA Members save 25% PLUS an additional 20% on selected emergency kits for home and your vehicle with our rewards partner F.A.S.T. (First Aid & Survival Technologies Limited).
Step two: Customize your kit to meet your needs—for example, regular medications, comfort items for children or food for your pet.
Step three: Put your kit in a place that's easy to access. Prepare extra kits to keep in your vehicle and at work.
Create a 10-metre defensible space around your home
Fifty percent of home fires caused by wildfires are started by airborne sparks and embers, which can travel as far as two kilometres beyond an approaching wildfire. Simple measures—particularly 10 metres around your home—can help.
- Clear away fuel sources
Check around your property and, if possible, clear away any trees and brush that could add fuel to a fire. Remove firewood away from your house and do not store combustible materials, such as propane and natural gas tanks, under decks or porches. Use driveways, lawns and gravel to create a fuel break wherever possible.
- Clean your roof and check under your deck
Clean your rooftop, including the gutters and corners, where debris tends to collect as flying embers could ignite these. If you're renovating or building a new home, consider fire-proofing your roof by using non-flammable materials like asphalt shingles, metal, slate or tile. Speak to a local roofing professional about options. Embers can also collect and ignite under your deck, especially if it's laden with dried pine needles, leaves and other flammable fuel sources. Never store propane tanks or woodpiles under your deck.
- Space out trees
Ensure there's no direct path from the forest to your home. Make sure existing or newly planted trees are at least three metres apart from each other and 10 metres away from your home.
- Add fire-resistant plants
Shrubs and trees with low sap, moist leaves and minimal accumulation of dead leaves can help to prevent the spread of wildfire. Avoid flammable plants with needles, resins, flaky bark and tall grasses. Mulch is also highly flammable and best avoided.
- Get even more information at FireSmart BC
Learn more about how you can protect your home and property against a forest fire with the FireSmart Begins At Home Manual from FireSmart BC or Prepared BC's Wildfire Preparedness Guide.
Make sure you have the right coverage
Wildfires are just that, 'wild,' and we can't predict what will happen when they strike. In addition to creating a defensible space around your home and preparing your family, review your insurance policies so you fully understand your coverage.
- Keep all vehicles on your property insured
Keeping occasional-use recreational vehicles insured throughout wildfire season enables you to move them in the event of an evacuation. Basic liability insurance may be obtained to move uninsured vehicles to a safe location, but coverage for physical damage may not be available in fire-effected areas. Contact a BCAA Car Insurance Expert for details.
- Keep your home insurance up-to-date
It may be difficult to purchase home insurance as a natural disaster is unfolding, so make sure you're covered for wildfire season. Know what coverage you have and whether you need to update your policy. Document your valuables with photos or videos, including any renovations to your home and yard. Speak to your local BCAA Home Insurance Expert early on to go over your policy.
- Move and document valuables
Transfer irreplaceable possessions and valuables to a safe storage location and take photos of anything that can't be moved. Upload important documents and precious digital photos to a secured 'cloud' or onto a portable hard drive that you can encrypt for added security and take with you.
- Talk to an insurance expert
For questions about home insurance coverage caused by a forest fire, speak to your local insurance advisor. You can also visit our BC Wildfire Insurance Tips page for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about your coverage.
Residents in areas with moderate-to-high fire danger ratings should always stay prepared for a potential evacuation alert.
Stay up-to-date and be smoke-ready
Mobile apps that alert you of wildfires and hazards in your region can keep you up-to-date on threats so you can take appropriate action. The BC Wildfire Service or Alertable apps (both available through Apple or Google Play stores) are great options and can provide you with real-time wildfire information. Emergency Info BC provides information on evacuation alerts and orders, as well as response and recovery resources. You’ll also find information about Alert Ready and BC’s Emergency Alerting System here.
Check the air quality index regularly or subscribe to receive air quality notifications in your area (select locations) and limit time outdoors in smoky conditions. You might also want to consider a portable air cleaner for your home if you have the means. If you have pre-existing respiratory conditions, check-in with your doctor and have your medications ready.
Pack your essentials and key documents
Have a small bag of essentials packed and ready to go, including personal items that you and your family will need should you have to leave home and stay elsewhere overnight. Include copies of personal identification, prescriptions and insurance papers.
Ensure emergency responders can see your home address. Be an advocate in your community for visible, fire-proof street signs.
Ensure your car has enough gas in its tank
Wildfires can spread vast distances and smoke can spread even further. Should you have to leave the area, you never know how far you'll have to drive to get to a safe location or reach a gas station.
In the event of an evacuation
Notice of an evacuation can happen fast and at any time. Here are vital to-dos to help you stay organized and informed.
Track your expenses
Keep your receipts for accommodation, meals and other out-of-the-ordinary expenses. Most BCAA 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 applies.
Contact your insurance provider
To make a claim or to access 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.
When a major disaster strikes, like a wildfire or an earthquake, our BCAA Community Support Team may be there to help our Members, insurance customers and the local community. We set up support services at local resilience centres so we can help answer your questions and guide you through any insurance processes.
If you've been evacuated, you may be anxious to return home, but remember your home and its surroundings may not be the same as they were before, so practice caution.
Re-enter your home safely
There may be significant damage to your home and surrounding areas. Ensure you obey all signage and Damage Assessment Placecards (notices that the local government places on buildings within the damaged area).
If you can enter your home for an extended period:
- Bring essential supplies like drinking water, gloves, garbage bags and a flashlight
- Inspect the perimeter of your home before entering and make sure the main power breaker is off before you enter the home with caution (do not connect to a household circuit!)
- Avoid using your sewage disposal system and remember your septic system or sump pump may not work without power and water
- Do not use propane, gas or heating oil until you have contacted suppliers for inspection and service
Food and water safety tips
- Your tap water may not be suitable for drinking, so use bottled water or boil or disinfect tap water. Contact your local authority before using tap water
- Discard spoiled food in your refrigerator. If your freezer has been exposed to fire or without power for more than three days, throw out the contents
- Discard food items exposed to heat, ash chemicals, soot, water and smoke
Check-in with your mental health
Here are some helpful resources:
- For 24/7 non-emergency assistance, visit the HealthLink BC website at www.healthlinkbc.ca or call 8-1-1 to speak to a health service coordinator who can connect you to other health care professionals if necessary.
- 310 Mental Health Support can be reached at 310-6789 (no area code needed) and offers emotional support, information and resources.
- Kids Help Phone is Canada's only national helpline for young people between the ages of five and 20 where they can speak to a counsellor by calling 1.800.668.6868 or text a volunteer crisis responder at 686868.
Learn more about recovering after a wildfire here.
Remember, disasters come in all shapes and sizes, so when it comes to common disasters in BC, follow these three simple steps to prepare:
Click here for EmergencyInfoBC additional government wildfire resources.
Insurance is sold through BCAA Insurance Agency and underwritten by BCAA Insurance Corporation. The language in this document may not be the same as the actual policy wording, which will prevail in all instances and is available upon request. Certain exclusions, limitations and conditions may apply.