A hot, dry summer has opened the door for another intense wildfire season in Washington state.
Whether your home is in the city, the suburbs or a rural area, your homeowners insurance policy should cover your home in the event of a fire — unless you intentionally set the fire yourself.
Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler offered advice to consumers whose homes may be endangered by wildfires this summer and looking to protect themselves going forward.
“Wildfire season is becoming a more dangerous, and regularly occurring, threat in our state due to climate change,” Kreidler said. “It’s important to make sure you’re not only prepared to keep yourself safe, but to protect your property with the right coverage if disaster strikes.”
How to prepare for wildfire risk
You can protect your home and limit your home’s fire exposure by:
- Clearing a natural firebreak between your home and outbuildings, trees, bushes, leaves, wood piles, uncut fields and flammable materials.
- Installing a water pump or having access to a nearby water source if you’re in a rural area without fire hydrants.
- Using fire-resistant roofing or building materials.
- Review Wildfire Prepared Homes from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.
Check your coverage regularly to make sure it includes adequate replacement coverage and prepare a household inventory to give your carrier the information they need to settle any potential claims.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has more information on how to protect yourself and your home from wildfires.
What to do after a fire
- After you and your household members are safe, immediately contact your insurance company.
- Don’t throw out any damaged items until your insurance company has a chance to inspect them.
- If your home is not livable, your policy may provide coverage for temporary housing. Ask your insurance company if they can help.
- Obtain a complete copy of your insurance policy, including your declaration page and any endorsements. Read and understand your coverages, especially the “Duties after Loss” section. If you do not understand your policy, get help from an insurance professional.
- You have a duty to protect your property from further damage, which may include mitigation, emergency repairs, or temporary repairs. You may need to retain a licensed professional for this work. Be sure to discuss the process with your insurance company. Don’t make any permanent repairs until after your company has inspected your damaged property.
- Keep your receipts and organize them.
- Save all emails and electronic and paper documentation related to the claim.
- Document and support your claim with photos, details, estimates, etc. to prove your loss. Do not pad or exaggerate your claim — that is insurance fraud and you can be charged with a crime.
- Keep copies of everything.
Visit the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s Wildfires and homeowner insurance page to learn more.