If your home or business has been affected by a wildfire, it is important to take the right steps and to act fast to reduce the risks and damage to your property. Naturally, you will want to rebuild and return to your home or business as soon as possible. By following these tips you will be able to mitigate some of your loss and get things back to normal faster than average.
Document the damage
Once you’ve returned to your home or business after a wildfire and before you start cleaning up anything, contact your insurance representative to file a claim. Remember, even if there is no direct fire damage, smoke is covered under most commercial and personal property insurance policies. Confirm with your broker or agent if there are any filing deadlines that you should be aware of. After you have done this, begin to document the visible damage thoroughly and take pictures of everything that you can. Do not throw out any of the damaged items until your home has been properly inspected and you have permission to do so. If there are significant delays, pile up un-salvageable items outside and document each with a photo.
If possible, get air moving inside your home or business by opening windows or using a fan, provided that there are no smoke advisories currently in place. Wildfire smoke can leave ash and dark soot that can accumulate in your HVAC system and circulate harmful particulates around your work or home. Replace your furnace filter and consider having your heating & air conditioning system professionally cleaned.
Cleaning and recovery
Smoke travels very easily, so it doesn’t take much for the damage to extend far beyond the immediate area where the fire burned. Smoke and soot contain high levels of acidity that can be harmful to almost any material and can have lasting effects if it is not dealt with in a timely manner. The longer that ash and soot is left sitting on fabric, carpets, and clothing, the harder it will be to remove.
For heavily damaged homes, it is better to leave cleaning and remediation to professionals who have specialized equipment and personal protection devices. The wrong cleaning techniques can lead to further damage, and soot and ash can have harmful effects on your health. Professionals will also have a better idea of whether the damage is reversible or if an item will need to be replaced. The cost for this service should be covered under your property insurance policy.
If you would prefer to handle the clean-up on your own, Alberta Health Services has a thorough guide on how to clean your home after a wildfire.
Check the condition of items after cleaning
Be aware of the possibility that there could be a disagreement or conflict with your insurers over what items should be cleaned or need to be replaced and whether the cleaning services are adequate. For some of your belongings, it may be hard to tell If an item can be restored until after it has been cleaned. It is a good idea to come up with a fair replacement value for these items. If you are not satisfied with an item’s condition after it has been cleaned, you can then claim the replacement value in addition to the cleaning cost.
Keep an updated inventory
If you live in an area that could be threatened by wildfires, it is a good precaution to take a video walking through the inside of your home documenting all your belongings. Store this video in a safe place backed up to a cloud-based software so that it can be accessed from anywhere. Videos, photos and an updated home inventory list can provide valuable evidence towards your claim in the event that you experience total loss to your home. Several providers including DropBox, Google Photos and iCloud offer an automated backup service if you enable it in the settings.
Additional support through your insurance provider
If a wildfire has required you to evacuate your home, you could be entitled to additional living expenses on your insurance policy. If your home has been heavily damaged by fire or smoke, you could be reimbursed for temporary housing, furniture rental or storage, depending on your policy. It is best to speak with your insurance broker or agent as soon as you can to know how you can be supported during this period.
If you notice smoke in the air from wildfires, FireSmoke Canada has an interactive map showing the ground-level concentrations of smoke particles, allowing you to pinpoint where it is coming from. You can also check the website of your provincial wildfire service to get the status of active fires.
Fuse Insurance Ltd. is the evolution of the commercial insurance brokerage, and the first of its kind in Western Canada. Backed by policies from a selection of A-rated insurers, Fuse Insurance can provide coverage for businesses large and small from almost any industry. For further information or to get an online quote now, click here or call us at 1-866-387-FUSE (3873) for more details.