“It's always wildfire season now.”
– Vicki Christiansen, Chief of the US Forest Service
Wildfire frequency has increased by 400 percent since 1970 in the US, and California is the top state for wildfire risk. Verisk’s 2019 Wildfire Risk Analysis identified more than 2 million California homes at high or extreme wildfire risk. Given that wildfire season is lasting longer and with greater severity than ever before, it’s smart for California homeowners to prepare for wildfires – and that starts with the right insurance.
Standard homeowners insurance does cover fire damage – and that includes wildfire damage. However, it’s becoming more common in wildfire-prone areas for insurance companies to exclude wildfire coverage or significantly raise rates for this basic protection. Some may even refuse to cover a home based on its wildfire risk.
Considering wildfires are nearly impossible to predict – 90 are caused by human activity and the other 10 percent are caused by lightning strikes – it’s important for homeowners to check their coverage and make sure they are protected.
A home insurance policy that includes wildfire protection can help pay for fire, smoke, and soot damage to:
If a wildfire forces your family to temporarily live somewhere else while your home is being repaired, your policy can also help pay for additional living expenses, such as a hotel room, meals, and more.
If you’re charged for fire department services, your homeowners insurance may help cover those fees up to a certain amount.
|Covered Property||Covered Wildfire Damage|
|Your home and belongings||Fire, smoke, soot|
|Other structures||Fire, smoke, soot|
|Trees and shrubs||Fire|
Because wildfire insurance is included in homeowners insurance, it’s not a separate cost from your policy. On average, Californians pay $1,188 a year for their homeowners insurance with Kin. But homeowners in areas with greater wildfire risk (think: canyons or places with a lot of trees or brush) may pay more for their home insurance.
Even at a higher rate, the cost of home insurance pales in comparison to the sweeping cost of wildfire damage. In 2018, California wildfire insurance claims reached a staggering $12 billion. Individually, fire and lightning claims average $68,322 per incident. Imagine paying that out of pocket.
US Wildfire Damage by the Year
|Year||Acres Burned||Total Cost in Damage|
|2017||10 million||$21 billion|
|2018||8.7 million||$24 billion|
Fire claims are the costliest home insurance claims no matter the cause. The reason wildfires are so devastating is because they can impact thousands of homeowners a single incident.
Unlike a fire that starts in the home and may stay relatively contained to that household, wildfires cause widespread destruction because they usually begin in areas with plenty of dry brush to act as fuel and winds to carry the flames (FYI: wildfires can travel up to 14 miles per hour).
And worst of all? Wildfire season is worsening with climate change.
California has two fire seasons: summer wildfires fueled by heat and fall wildfires fueled by high winds. But fire season is starting earlier and ending later each year, thanks to warmer spring and summer temperatures, reduced snowpack, and earlier spring snowmelt. This creates longer and drier seasons that increase moisture stress on vegetation and make forests more susceptible to severe wildfire.
These conditions created the perfect combination for the unprecedented 2018 wildfires: abundant fuel sources (a record-setting 129 million dead trees at the end of 2017), dry conditions, and high wind speeds. Homes that were previously thought to not be exposed to wildfire risk were lost in record numbers because of the intensity of the fires and high winds.
Moral of the story? Don’t assume your home is free from wildfire risk. Take precautions, plan ahead, and make sure your homeowners insurance can cover the damage.
Don’t wait to protect your home from the high cost of wildfire damage. Get covered today.