What You Should Know About: 

Wildfire and Your Homeowners Insurance

Living in the Pacific Northwest means wildfire may be a threat to you, your family and your property. Are you prepared?

Three things you should know:

  • Wildfires burned more than 1.8 million acres in Washington, Oregon and Idaho in 2017, and more homes and businesses are threatened by fire each year as development pushes deeper into the Wildland-Urban Interface.
  • Mitigation techniques help home and business owners reduce wildfire damage to buildings, landscapes and neighborhoods, and planning ahead can help save lives and property.
  • Wildfire damage is covered by standard home and business insurance policies, and insurance is available for homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface areas of WA, OR and ID.

Wildfires & Insurance

The wildfire danger continues to grow in all parts of the Pacific Northwest, but especially in areas known as the inter-urban wilderness where houses and wildland vegetation meet or intermingle.

Fortunately, wildfire damage from both fire and smoke is covered under your standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies. While that may bring some peace of mind, it’s important to do all you can to reduce the chances you’ll be a victim to wildfire, because the claims process can take time and insurance coverage can’t restore irreplaceable family heirlooms and other one-of-a-kind items.

Wildfire Preparation & Defensible Space

It is more important than ever for property owners and communities to work together to prepare for and mitigate the impact of wildfires. To help you prepare, the National Fire Protection Association offers a Firewise Toolkit for home and business owners whose properties are exposed to threat of damage from wildfire. The Toolkit is free and available for download today. Some insurers even provide discounted rates for properties located in Firewise Communities. If your community is not currently Firewise, NFPA can also help you get started.

In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you protect your home or business and your family from wildfire:

  • Make a plan - Before an emergency, create a family evacuation plan and consider multiple routes out of your home and neighborhood in case the most obvious routes are blocked by fire or traffic.
  • Make a list -  remember to include prescription medicines, important paperwork, such as your insurance policy, and prepare for your pet’s needs by bringing pet food, leashes, etc.
  • Heed all evacuation orders – If you’re in the path of an active wildfire, make sure you and your loved ones are safe and away from any danger.
  • Review your insurance policy – Before disaster strikes, contact your insurance agent or a representative from your insurance company or to be sure you have the right coverage to meet your needs, especially if you’ve recently remodeled or built new additions to your home. Ask about “replacement cost coverage” to make sure you are covered for the cost to rebuild your home, not just for the value of the home you purchased.
  • Renters Insurance – If you rent, you also need to protect your belongings from wildfire. Consider buying Renters Insurance.
  • Defensible Spacing – Clear brush 30 to 100 feet from your home.  Keep your yard well-groomed and watered and remove old stumps and weak or diseased trees from your property.  Create a buffer zone by landscaping with fire-resistant plants.  Contact your local utility company if you notice tree branches touching power lines.
  • Fireproof your rooftop and decks – The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home in a wildfire, due to drifting embers and sparks.  Replace wood-shake roofs with less flammable material when possible.  Keep roofs, decks and gutters clear of needles and leaves and remove items stored under decks or porches.
  • Home exterior precautions – Install screens on chimneys, stovepipes and attic openings.  Trim trees that overhang the home to prevent fire in trees from easily spreading to the roof of the house.  Keep flammable materials like fuel tanks at least 30 feet away from the home. Don’t stack firewood immediately adjacent to exterior walls.
  • Be accessible and visible – Make sure your house number is visible from the street.  If firefighters can’t find you, they can’t help you.
  • Talk to your neighbors – create a plan with your neighbors about how to address your wildfire safety challenges together. Communities are encouraged to participate in the Firewise Communities/USA Recognition Program, which provides communities with a risk assessment and action plan to help residents work together to achieve greater wildfire safety.

How To: Build a Wildfire Defensible Space 

Insurance Tips for home and business owners – and for renters, too!

  • Maintain a complete home inventory – Keep copies of contracts and receipts of your personal possessions in a safe place outside of your home. Take pictures or video of your belongings with your smartphone.  Your home inventory can help you and your adjuster settle your claim faster if your home is damaged or destroyed by wildfire.  Many insurance companies offer mobile apps to help you track your home inventory.
  • Home interior precautions – Consider installing a home sprinkler system if you live in a wildfire-prone area.  Replace batteries in smoke detectors in every room of your home at least twice each year. 

Wildfire Resources

National Fire Protection Association
Firewise Communities Program

Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Wildfire Resources

Oregon Department of Forestry
Fire Information & Statistics

Idaho Department of Lands
Fire Information and Resources

National Interagency Fire Center
National Wildland Fire Update
National Fire Statistics