April showers bring May flowers, but after the rainy spring period ends, it’s the threat of forest fires and wildfires Canadian homeowners need to consider.
Natural Resources Canada warns we will face a higher-than-normal wildfire risk in every region of the country west of central Quebec this summer. Moreover, that threat will persist well into September. Canada is home to about 9% of the world’s forests. Since 1990, wildfires (aka “wildland fires”) have burned around 2.5 million hectares (approximately 6.2 million acres), and fire suppression costs have ranged between $500 million and $1 billion a year over the last decade.
Lightning strikes tend to be the No. 1 cause of forest fires and wildfires year-over-year. But some researchers point to human-caused climate change as a compounding factor, noting much of Canada’s northern boreal forest is drier and warmer nowadays than it was a couple of decades ago. Human activities such as failing to extinguish campfires and cigarettes properly are also factors. Regardless, wildfire affects communities across Canada and may result in evacuations or the loss of homes.
Does a Home Insurance Policy Provide Coverage for Damage from Wildfires?
If your home and property are damaged by a forest fire or wildfire, your home insurance policy may provide you with the coverage you need to recover from the experience. It depends on the coverages your policy contains.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), most home insurance policies cover fire damage. Furthermore, if you must evacuate your home because of a wildfire, your policy may provide coverage for living expenses such as lodging and food during the evacuation period.
Home insurance policies typically provide coverage for your dwelling, content, and personal liability. Dwelling coverage includes insured perils, including fire, which covers the cost of damages or loss of your home due to fire. As its name suggests, contents coverage insures your possessions. Personal liability covers you if someone is injured on your property. Keep in mind there are varying levels of coverage and limits on insured perils. Take the time to review your policy and have a discussion about it with your broker or insurance agent to ensure you have the protection you need.
Wildfire Mitigation Tips: What You Can Do on Your Property
FireSmart Canada partnered with The Co-operators to promote wildfire community preparedness. Among the fire mitigation tips for homeowners and communities they recommend includes:
- Rake and remove dry leaves and other debris within a minimum of 1.5 metres of a home's foundation. Dispose of collected debris in appropriate trash receptacles
- Clean debris from the roof and gutters and pay attention to maintaining 1.5-metre non-combustible zone
- Get out a measuring tape and see how close wood piles are located to the home; if closer than 10 metres, move at least 10 metres away from structures
- Sweep porches and decks, clearing them of leaves and other combustible debris. Rake under decks, porches, sheds and play structures
- Mow grass to a height of 10 centimetres or less
- Remove items stored under decks and porches and relocate them to a storage shed, garage, or basement. Gasoline cans and portable propane tanks should never be stored indoors and should be located away from the home
IBC also provides ways to reduce home fire risks both inside and outside of your home. Those measures include having an emergency survival kit and evacuation plan.
It’s also useful to be mindful of forest fire and wildfire activity in your province. Natural Resources Canada provides fire weather maps online that details where the most significant fire danger risks are in the country by date. Additionally, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre offers interactive maps with detailed fire information.