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Wildfires and home insurance
May 24, 2024
3 min

Wildfire Season and Home Insurance

In Canada, wildfires are common between May and September, and can even be earlier in some parts of the country. Last year the wildfires caused mass amounts of devastation in some parts of Canada and it’s expected to be another challenging summer this year.

Home insurance is usually the last thing on people’s minds when extreme events occur, but it is important to think about. Knowing what coverage you have and what can help when you need to file a claim can make a big difference.

Does home insurance cover fire damage?

Most home and business insurance policies cover damage caused by fire, even if the fire began on a neighbouring property. It excludes coverage if the fires were started intentionally by the policyholder or a member of the household.

Standard homeowners/condos/tenants insurance policies typically provides coverage for smoke damage resulting from covered perils such as fire. If smoke damage occurs as a result of a covered event, such as a fire within the home or neighbouring property, the policy will include provisions for repair or replacement of damaged property, as well as cleanup and restoration expenses.

What about wildfires?

Almost every insurance policy across Canada covers wildfire risk, and coverage is not limited in any way. Fires are still considered an accident in this country and predictions cannot be made as to what homes will be affected. Even though most fires are man-made it will not affect policy coverage at all, no matter how it starts.

What is mass evacuation coverage?  

Mass evacuation coverage offers financial protection when a government-mandated evacuation forces you to temporarily move out of your home due to a natural or man-made disaster. They can include wildfires, floods, rainstorms, nuclear incidents, or other emergencies, where you have been temporarily displaced. 

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Evacuation and additional living expenses

Most home and tenant insurance policies cover ‘additional living expenses’, which can extend up to 30 days, or a dollar amount, depending on your carrier.

It would include reimbursement for temporary accommodation and extra expenses while away from your home. It is important to keep all the receipts during this time for your insurance company.

Additional Living Expenses (ALE) are for people who are unable to return to their damaged homes, or lost their homes in the fire and do not apply to evacuation scenarios if there is no damage to your home.

Mass evacuation coverage is for people whose homes are fine but were located in the evacuation zone and forced to leave.

The coverage would be for sudden essential expenses (due to natural disasters or industrial accidents) that require the evacuation of your neighbourhood. It would typically cover short-term expenses such as hotel room, fuel to get there and necessary things that you cannot bring from home.

If you’re unsure what you are entitled to, you can always ask your insurance advisor before you have to go.

Insurance Tips

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) says that anyone who had to evacuate their homes should make a list of damaged or destroyed items and keep receipts for all the expenses they incur while away.  

Taking pictures of your home and the contents inside before you leave can be very helpful in keeping track of what has happened during your absence. More information is better especially when you need to file a claim.

Getting started on your claim right away will be helpful as well. If you need any assistance you can always contact your dedicated insurance advisor to guide you through the process.

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