Fire in a pine forest

*Updated* BC Wildfires: Donations, insurance, prevention & helpful links

UPDATE: 

The FVREB Red Cross donation page has reached a new total of over $6,000 thanks to your generous contributions! On top of that, seven Boards across the province including the FVREB and BCREA have come together to raise a current total of $28,000 (which continues to quickly rise!).

For those who would like to add to the donation, you can still contribute to the Red Cross relief and support efforts via the page. Thank you for your support!

Donations:

The FVREB is pleased to announce a donation through the Red Cross to help with the impacts to families due to the BC wildfires. The $3,500 donation – about $1 per FVREB member  – will be matched by BCREA. As well, an FVREB Red Cross donation page has been set up, where members can donate any amount, get an automatic tax receipt emailed to them, and add their donation to the Fraser Valley Realtors’ tally. Many members may have already donated, or used the Red Cross’ text to donate (text FIRES to 45678 to donate $10). We know all donations are appreciated. The money will go to providing financial assistance, cots, blankets, and family reunification services for victims of the fires.

Insurance:

Extreme environmental events like the wildfires raging in BC have become more frequent, largely due to climate change, say experts. And not surprisingly, Canada’s insurance companies are making rate adjustments, especially in light of the $3.5 billion that the Fort McMurray wildfire cost companies last year.

The BC interior wildfires this season highlight the fact that communities in forested, dry, rural areas where trees and grasslands, wood stacks, small volunteer fire departments, and open burning are common, present far greater risk for property owners.

If you or a client owns a recreational property in a rural area, the insurance policies are written up based partially on how often that recreational home is occupied – used year-round, seasonally, occasionally, or rented – because if owners leave a property unoccupied and a fire is not discovered early enough, the severity of damage is assumed to be much greater.

Recreational property insurance is generally not based on a comprehensive policy like other home policies, but rather itemized by specific perils based on location, building type, etc.  However, recreational properties, or second homes, can be added to a primary home insurance policy as a secondary or seasonal location. Or an owner can opt to insure it with an entirely separate policy.

Contrary to widespread belief, so-called “Acts of God” such as floods, earthquakes, and wildfires are covered by insurance policies in Canada. “Acts of God” is not a term actually contained in home insurance policies in Canada, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).  Damages from natural occurrences are covered, as well as the emergency living expenses that result from forced evacuations. However, fire insurance will likely be more costly where fewer preventive measures are in place.

BCREA suggests ways to advise clients on fire insurance:

  • Encourage buyers having difficulty getting home insurance to try several providers, as each may have somewhat different criteria.
  • Suggest that buyers get legal advice in locations where they are unable to get insurance coverage.
  • Protect homebuyers by using the “Subject to Fire/Property Insurance” clause developed by the Real Estate Council of BC:
    “This offer is subject to the Buyer obtaining approval for fire/property insurance, on terms and at rates, satisfactory to the Buyer, on or before (date). This condition is for the sole benefit of the Buyer.”
  • Brokers may also wish to consult their company’s legal advisors for guidance on how to deal with difficult insurance matters.

Prevention:

The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and IBC recommend several “Fire Smart” measures you can take to protect your property from fire damage and prevent fires from starting on your land. First of all, think of trees and vegetation as fuel for fire.  You want to remove the natural fuels existing on your property (trees, brush, tall grass) and limit, remove, or fire-proof other wooden materials, buildings, shingles or wood stacks.

You want to have three fire free zones around your house, starting with a minimum of a 10-metre buffer zone where you eliminate all combustible vegetation including, mature trees, shrubs, deadfall, and woodpiles.

The second zone is about 20 metres beyond the first zone where trees should be pruned, and the brush thinned, thereby denying the fire a natural fuel.  A third zone, from 30 metres to 70 metres from the house, is where you thin out trees so that tree crowns are at least 3 to 6 metres apart. You can also leave or plant fire resistant trees such as aspen, poplar and birch.

It’s also important to make allowance for a fuel-free entryway so that emergency vehicles and fire fighters can enter the property safely and easily.

If you are installing a new roof, note that untreated wooden shakes and shingles feed a fire, whereas metal, clay or asphalt is more fire resistant. In any case, keep your roof free of deadfall from surrounding trees.

There are many other obvious safety measures to protect your property from fire such as upgrading chimneys to current building code, keeping burn barrels and fire pits far away from buildings and other combustibles, clearing power lines and propane tanks away from vegetation. (For a full explanation of fire-smart measures, go to the IBC website listed below.)

Despite the concerted efforts of fire fighters including those from other provinces, BC has continued to be under a state of emergency, and as of Thursday, July 13, some 200 wildfires continued to burn through BC’s interior region.

The extent of damage to property and natural areas will take months to tally but so far no human deaths have been associated with the current storm of wildfires.

The map image below is from the BC Wildfire website, and is updated regularly here: Wildfire Status. Find other helpful links below the map.

bcwildfires

Helpful links:

To find out the status of wildfires in BC, go to BC Wildfire Situation. To find out about road closures due to wild fires, visit the interactive map under Conditions and Events on the provincial highways website: www.drivebc.ca. Follow the Twitter hashtag #BCWildfire for more information. For fire prevention tips go to Insurance Bureau of Canada Fire Information.