Washington and Oregon might face the worst wildfire season in the nation—what can help protect us, our loved ones, and our property?
By: Meagan Baron
June 12, 2020
Every year, wildfires do millions of dollars in damage in the United States alone.
While more wildfires tend to burn in the east, the west experiences larger fires that burn more acreage, according to The Federation of American Scientists. Washington and Oregon are always on the list each year for the top western states to experience significant wildfires—both in the number of fires and the cost of damages.
March officially marked the start of wildfire season for Washington, and Washington and Oregon are expected to be worse than normal this year. So much worse in fact that The Department of Natural Resources expects these two states to have the worst wildfire season in the nation since they had lots of warm and dry weather in April. Washington alone has had about 300 wildfires and counting in the last few months.
So, what can help protect us, our loved ones, and our property? Knowledge and simple action.
First, you need to know what your insurance policy covers and what additional coverage is available to you.
Understanding your policies will help ensure that you are protected adequately—both in terms of covered losses and adequate coverage limits. Additionally, knowing what other insurance options are out there can get you the coverage that you need for your specific circumstances that your current policy might not be equipped for.
Below are insurance policies that can help cover fire damage—please keep in mind that coverage specifics will vary policy to policy:
- Dwelling/Landlord coverage: This coverage is designed to help cover repair expenses to your home. It is also possible for this coverage to cover the cost of yard plants, both in the removal of the damaged ones and the replacement of new ones.
- Homeowners insurance: Items that are commonly covered with this insurance include fire department service charges, smoke damage, vandalism, and landscaping. Additionally, some homeowner policies include loss of use insurance (also known as additional living expense coverage), which helps cover things like temporary living arrangements, food, and transportation. Loss of use insurance is not always included in a homeowners insurance policy, but there are individual policies for such coverage.
- Personal property insurance: This is coverage that will help replace damaged belongings. Something helpful in the claims process for this coverage is to have proof of belongings that you owned. An inventory list along with pictures and receipts can help you remember all that you owned and make the reimbursement process easier. Some people even have videotaped themselves walking around their house to show proof of their possessions. Additionally, it is always a good idea to back these files in areas that will make them accessible even if all your belongings are damaged, like in email or on The Cloud.
- Other structures protection: Sometimes your house is not the only structure on your property that needs to be protected. That is where this coverage comes into play. For example, if you have a detached garage, workshop, gazebo, or something else similar on your property, you should look into this coverage to make sure that you have the coverage you need in case it sustains damages.
Next, investigate what you can do to prevent fire damage and practice those actions regularly.
If a fire occurs, a good thing to have is an environment that will not give the fire what it needs to do more damage. What does that mean? Some common things that help fires not spread or get worse include:
- Working and readily available fire equipment. For example: smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and backup batteries.
- A well-maintained home and yard.
- Make sure that your grass is regularly trimmed and well-watered.
- Clean up dead leaves and twigs.
- Trim your plants regularly, especially trees.
- Clean your gutters, fireplaces, overhands, and roof.
- Make sure your property is easily accessible for the fire department
- Keep the inside of your home tidy. This will help eliminate accidental fires from things like things too close to the heater. It will also help make the maneuver process easier for residents and firefighters if a fire does break out.
- The use of fire-resistant and/or nonflammable materials. You might not have this option now. Keep this in mind if you do ever build/renovate your home or any additional structures on your property.
- Plants and planting material that are naturally resistant to fire. Also, try to avoid plants and planting material that are prone to igniting. For example, beauty bark is very dry and flammable, so it is recommended by numerous professionals that you place it away from your house and other structures if you are going to use it. The Washington State Insurance Commissioner recommends having anything that is prone to fueling fires not be within 30 feet of any structure. Also, if you do use things like beauty bark, it also recommended to keep it well-watered.
- The knowledge of basic fire safety. Make sure those who live at your house or visit it often know basic fire safety.
Lastly, do not forget to have safety precautions in place!
Financial factors are not the only thing you should consider when getting prepared for a fire. The safety of you and your loved ones could be impacted if you are at home or work when a fire occurs.
It is always a good idea to have an evacuation plan for your family that you all practice. Same goes for if you own a company and you want to make sure your employees are prepared if an office fire occurs. Giving kids and employees examples of scenarios and what to do in those circumstances can help them get themselves to safety if they ever need to do so. The American National Red Cross and The National Fire Protection Association are great places to look at for your children, and Total Fire Protection has a nice run-down of workplace fire safety for your employees.
Additionally, knowing important contact information can be a major help. Important phone numbers to memorize and have on speed dial include ones like:
- Local police and fire departments
- Relatives in the area
Are you ready? We are here to help if you need us!
While insurance cannot prevent wildfires, if done correctly, it can help you pick up pieces and rebuild your life. Give your Mosaic agent a call and see if your home and business is ready for a potential fire. Access your agent’s direct line and email here. You can also call our main line at (425) 320-4280.
Not currently a client? No problem! We would love to see what we can do for you. Give our main line a call and we will get you in touch with one of our teammates who will give you a free quote! We have access to many top carriers and look forward to seeing how we can help you get the in-depth one-on-one help that only an independent agency can give.
We look forward to talking to you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Sources: Allstate, Esurance, Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, Newsweek.com, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).