Heat wave increases wildfire risk: are you prepared?
Kenton Brine, President
Sandi Henke, Communications Director
NW Insurance Council
Phone: (503) 465-6800
Fax: (206) 624-1975
Follow at Twitter/nwinsuranceinfo
SSEATTLE, August 2, 2017 – Temperatures continue to climb during what could be a record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, fueling concerns that the extreme heat will increase the risk of wildfires in the region and threaten more lives and properties.
At least 20 wildfires are burning in Washington, Oregon and Idaho and threatening nearly 35 homes, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. Because the extreme heat is elevating the wildfire risk, the NW Insurance Council encourages homeowners and business owners to take action now to protect your property and make sure you have adequate insurance.
“Wildfire damage is covered by standard home and business insurance policies,” said Kenton Brine, NW Insurance Council president, “but claims take time and insurance coverage can’t restore irreplaceable family heirlooms and other one-of-a-kind items, so it’s important to do everything you can reduce the chances you'll be a victim of wildfire.”
2014 was one of the longest and deadliest wildfire seasons in U.S. History, according to Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). Wildfires killed 34 Firefighters and torched more than 4.1 million acres nationally. The following year (2015), the Insurance Information Institute reported $1.5 billion in insured losses from wildfire across the nation.
“Wildfires burned more than 2.6 million acres in Washington, Oregon and Idaho in 2015 and more homes and business are threatened by fire each year as development pushes deeper into the Wildland-Urban Interface,” Brine said. “It is more important than ever for property owners and communities to prepare for and mitigate the impact of these devastating fires.”
The wildfire risk in August is expected to be above normal for much of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. NW Insurance Council and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offer the following tips to help residents protect their homes, families and businesses:
- Review your insurance policy – Contact your insurance company or your insurance agent to be sure you have the right coverage to meet your needs. Make sure you have the appropriate amount of insurance, especially if you’ve recently remodeled or built new additions to your home. Ask your company or agent about the value of Replacement Cost Coverage for your home.
- Renters Insurance – If you rent a home, duplex, condominium or apartment home, 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 – The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home when it comes to fires. Replace wood-shake roofs with less flammable material, when possible. Keep roofs and gutters clear of needles and leaves.
- 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 and chopped firewood at least 30 feet away from the home.
- 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.
- 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 quicker if your home is damaged or destroyed by wildfire. Downloadable home inventory applications (apps) are available through many insurance companies and other organizations online.
- Develop an emergency preparedness plan – Gather and store a three-day supply of food and water, First Aid supplies, flashlights and a portable radio. And, before an emergency strikes, develop your own evacuation readiness plan – talk with your family about being prepared in case a wildfire forces evacuation of your home and community. Visit GetReadyNW.org for more disaster planning and insurance information.
- 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.
To learn more about safeguarding your home and business from wildfire, the NFPA offers a free, downloadable Firewise Toolkit for property and business owners whose properties are exposed to threat of damage from wildfire.
NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education and public policy organization funded by member insurance companies serving Oregon, Washington and Idaho.