Wildfires may not be the first risk people associate with Florida homes, but they are a historical issue in the state. In recent yeaers, Florida has had a barrage of wildfires hit the state. Every year dozens of wildfires burn tens-of-thousands of acres in the Sunshine State. Some of the worst recent wildfires in Florida were three in the Panhandle that burned more than 34,000 acres together.
Florida sees fires on a three- to five-year cycle, partly due to the tropical atmosphere that puts the state at the top of the list for lightning strikes. Worse, the risk for wildfires may be increasing with climate change. One of the results of more severe hurricanes is more dead vegetation to act as wildfire fuel.
While you can’t completely protect your home from a wildfire, you take steps to reduce your risk. That starts with fireproofing your home and ends with home insurance that helps you recover if your home is damaged in a wildfire.
How to fireproof your home from wildfires
Let’s be clear: you can’t completely fireproof your home. That said, some homes are better prepared than others to withstand wildfires. Some ways you can better prepare your home for the worst-case scenario include:
- Installing a noncombustible roof. The American Society for Testing Methods is one organization that rates roofing materials. Class A denotes the most fire resistant and includes roof materials like concrete and clay tiles, flat or barrel-shaped tiles, and asphalt fiberglass composition shingles.
- Closing eaves. Stand under the outer edge of your roof and check where it meets your home’s exterior. If you can see the rafter tails, then you may want to close your eaves with a noncombustible material.
- Covering exterior vents. You can also prevent embers from getting inside your home by covering your exterior vents. Use metal wire mesh that is ⅛-inch or smaller, but also check with a contractor to make sure you aren’t restricting airflow.
- Installing noncombustible exterior wall coverings. Just like your roof, you want your exterior walls to be fire resistant. Several house siding options, like metal sheeting, brick veneer, and stuccos, tend to resist fire.
- Removing excess vegetation around the home. You want at least 30 feet of defensible space between your house and brush. Gravel, brick, and concrete are good options for creating defensible space that reduces combustion risk.
- Clearing your gutters. We use this tip a lot, but keeping your gutters and roof free from debris like leaves and branches lowers the risk of your roof catching fire.
- Enclosing your foundation. The type of foundation your home sits on can also protect against wildfires in Florida. Closing yours off can reduce your home’s exposure to embers. However, you want to weigh your chance for wildfire against your likelihood for floods and choose the foundation type that best protects against your biggest risk.
- Making water accessible. An external sprinkler system with its own power source can protect your home if other water sources aren’t available. You might also want to invest in a garden hose that’s long enough to reach all parts of your house.
- Changing out your windows. Single-pane windows are more likely to break when exposed to extreme heat, so opt for multi-pane windows, safety glass, or fireproof shutters.
- Sealing gaps around exterior wall openings. Exterior walls often have holes for utility connections. Fill any gaps in these with fire-resistant caulk, mortar, or fire-protective expanding foam.
Another way to protect your home is to pay attention to the wildfire risk in your area. That way you can stay alert for any news that may impact your home.
Does homeowners insurance cover wildfires in Florida?
Our Florida homeowners insurance covers damage to your home when it’s caused by wildfires. This is automatically part of your dwelling coverage and your other structures coverage. Your policy also has personal property coverage to help pay for damage to your personal belongings.
But what happens if a wildfire in your area keeps you from returning to your home? How are those expenses covered?
Whether that is covered depends on the situation. We’ve outlined a couple of examples below:
- If your property is damaged to the extent that you can’t live in it, then you can file a claim for additional living expenses on your loss of use coverage.
- If damage to your neighbor’s property and an authority, like the fire department, restricts access to your home, then you may receive approximately two weeks of civil authority coverage.
You should note, however, that evacuations prior to damage are not covered by your home insurance, even when a civil authority calls for it.
If you’re concerned about wildfires in your area, talk to your Kin representative to make sure that you have enough coverage with your home insurance. Review your dwelling coverage, other structures, and personal belongings coverages to ensure that you have the right amount of if you experience a wildfire.