Wildfires and Your Insurance

What can you do to protect yourself and your home from the risk of wildfire?

Here are a few tips to help your family stay safe and keep your home protected.

No building is fireproof, but there are steps you can take to better the chances when wildfire strikes.

• Define your defensible space—a 30-foot, non-combustible zone around your home.

• Create “fuel breaks”- concrete driveways and gravel walkways can interrupt the fire’s pathway to your home.

• Use fire-resistant construction materials for your home whenever possible.

• Examine the landscaping around your house and choose fire-resistant plants and trees. Use plants with a high moisture content nearest the home.

• Reduce the number of trees in heavily wooded areas and prune branches of trees within the    defensible space to 6-10 feet above the ground. This will reduce the chance of fire spreading to tree tops.

• Remove branches that overhang the roof or come within 15 feet of the chimney. 

• Clean all dead leaves and needles from the roof, gutters and yard.

• Cut grass and weeds regularly and keep your roof and yard clean, especially from dry yard debris.

• Stack wood piles or other burnable materials at least 30 feet from your home or other buildings on your property.  Keep fuel tanks at least 30 feet away.

• Keep signs and addresses visible so firefighters can easily locate your property.

• Rate your roof—is it fire resistant?  Install a roof with a fire classification of “class A”.  Cover the chimney outlet and stovepipe with a nonflammable screening.

• Recycle yard debris and branches instead of burning.

• Keep beauty bark and other wood chip ground covers away from direct contact with your home.  They can smolder.

• Install smoke alarms in your house.  Make sure to test the alarms regularly to make sure they are working properly.

• Put together an emergency kit that includes first-aid supplies, blankets and personal items you may need like medications, clothing and toiletries.  Also provide adequate supplies for your pets.

• Decide in advance what you will take with you when you evacuate-take only what you absolutely need and leave quickly.

• Create an emergency plan.  Choose a meeting place after evacuation that is away from your home. 

Wildfires are common in Washington, Oregon & California – here’s how you can protect yourself and your family when a wildfire is approaching

If a wildfire starts in your area, monitor local news reports for evacuation procedures. Evacuate immediately if told to do so. If you have time to prepare for evacuation you can do the following:

• Decide in advance what you will take with you when you evacuate-take only what you absolutely need.

Pack Your Essentials

● Pets and their supplies (food, water, bowls, medications, travel cage, leash, litter box)

• Water for all household members.

• Infant supplies (formula or milk, bottles, portable crib, baby food, diapers, wipes)

• Prescription medications and eye care, such as contact solution or glasses.

• Personal identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.)

• Health Insurance cards.

• Cell phone and charger.

• Cash (in the event of power outages)

•Clothing for up to a week.

• Personal hygiene items for up to a week.

• Key legal documents (birth certificates, marriage license, divorce papers, social security cards,    passports, power of attorney, will, mortgage, real estate deeds, vehicle registration and

  Ownership papers, etc.).

• Key financial records (bank account information, credit card, government benefits, retirement

  Or investment account statements, tax returns, professional property appraisals, or proof of 

  Other sources of income or financial obligation).

• Copies of insurance policies (your agent can provide a copy of your active policies)

• Personal photos.

• Put emergency supplies and must-have items in the car so you can evacuate quickly.

• Shut off propane at the tank or natural gas at the meter.

• Turn off all pilot lights.

• Close all windows, vents and doors.

• Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility of your home in heavy smoke.

• Remove lightweight and/or non-fire-resistant curtains from windows and doors.

• Close your fireplace.

• Move all flammable furniture to the center of your home.

• If possible, you should know at least 2 exit routes from your neighborhood.

• Arrange garden hoses so that they can reach any area of your house.

• Prepare your home so that it is hard for an ember to start a fire.

• Plan how you will gather your pets and if you must evacuate, take your pets with you if you can.  Secure appropriate lodging in advance depending on the number and type of animals you have.  Public shelters may not allow pets inside. Consider family and friends that may be willing to take in you and your pets in emergency.  Other options may include a hotel or motel that takes pets or a boarding facility, such as a kennel or veterinary hospital that is near an evacuation facility or your family’s meeting place. Find out before an emergency if there is a facility for your pets in the area. 

• Plan with neighbors, friends or relatives to make sure that someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Talk with your pet care buddy about your evacuation plans and show them where you keep your pet’s emergency supply kit. 

Return to a burned area only when local authorities have instructed you to do so.

How can I help firefighters save my home?

There are some things that you can do to help firefighters save your home from being destroyed by a wildfire.

• Make it easy for firefighters to find your home.  Use easy to read road signs and address numbers that are visible from the road.

• Make sure that fire crews and their vehicles will have safe access to your home in case of emergency.

• Provide a wide enough driveway or road for a fire truck to be able to turn around and keep vegetation trimmed so that emergency equipment can reach your house.

• Living close to a fire department is one of the greatest considerations your insurance carrier will use to determine your homeowners premiums.

• Be safe.  Stay out of burned or smoke damaged buildings.

• Maintain an emergency water supply that meets fire department standards, such as a community water hydrant system, a cooperative emergency storage tank you share with neighbors or a minimum storage supply of 2500 gallons on your property.  If you are on a well, consider an emergency generator to operate the pump during a power failure. Clearly mark all water sources and create easy access to your emergency water source.

After a Wildfire

• Return to your home only after it is safe.  Do not enter your home until officials declare it is safe.

• Wear protective clothing including sturdy shoes, long pants, long sleeve shirt and gloves. 

• Cover your mouth and nose with a face mask or handkerchief to avoid breathing ashes and soot.

• Watch out for ash pits and hot spots.  Small fires can flare up even after being extinguished.  Check your home and property for any burning embers or sparks and put them out immediately.

• Be aware of ash pit holes left by burned trees.  Mark the area so that no one falls into them.

• Watch out for broken glass, sharp objects and exposed electrical wires.

• Check your roof for burning embers and put them out with a hose if you see any.

• Call fire department if necessary.

How do you file a wildfire claim?

Report any wildfire damage to your insurance company immediately. A representative will talk you through your claim, recording the details.  During the first call, be ready to provide the following:

• Where is the damaged property?

• General description of the damage

• How extensive is the damage?

• Are any temporary repairs needed?

• If fire department responded, what is the report number?

• Current contact information

Take photographs and video to document the damage to your home.  Make a written list of items damaged after the wildfire.  Owner’s manuals, serial numbers and credit card statements can be useful to document personal belongings.  Review your insurance policy to see what is covered and the deductible you have chosen.  If you can’t live in your home, you may have coverage for additional living expenses, as noted in your policy.  Review your policy for detailed coverage explanations.

Prevent Further Damage

It is your responsibility to take action to avoid further damage once it is safe.  If you do not feel safe, you can have professional help with temporary repairs.  Here are some steps to take to protect your home and your car after a wildfire.

• Do not attempt to clean fire or smoke damaged items. Cleaning without the proper equipment can make it worse.

• Board up broken windows and doors.

• Cover roof damage with tarps and remove debris.

• Store damaged items in a safe, secure place where they can be inspected later.

• Save all receipts for any temporary repairs.

• Do not throw out damaged items, especially expensive ones.

Repair Your Home

Please wait until a claims adjuster assesses the smoke and fire damage to your home before starting any permanent repairs.  It is a good idea, however to schedule the repair work as soon as possible because contractors will likely be very busy after a wildfire.  You should use a local, licensed, bonded and insured contractor and check references.

Stay in Touch!

As your insurance partner, we want to make sure we can contact you and your family in the event of an emergency. In addition to your home address and land line number, we’d like to have your e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers on file. You can update your records by calling Carriage Insurance at 425-641-5066 or e-mail jody@carriageagency.com.