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What you need to know about wildfire insurance

Never be afraid to ask questions, national industry association says.
brandonbachman
A photo of the fire in the Juniper neighbourhood in Kamloops on July 1.

A wildfire has impacted your community and your home. 

Of the many things racing through your mind is initiating the insurance process. What's covered? What's not? 

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), standard home and business insurance policies cover fire damage and additional living expenses (things like food, shelter and clothing), if residents have to leave because of a mandatory evacuation order. 

If you've been ordered to leave your home, keep the receipts of your living expenses. 

"Most homeowner's and tenant's insurance policies cover any reasonable additional living expenses for a specified period of time," says a press release from IBC. "Ask your insurance representative about the amount of living expenses you're entitled to claim."

How to start the claims process

Once the evacuation order is lifted and it's safe to return home, if your property has been damaged by wildfire, it's important to take the following steps before contacting your insurance provider:

  • Assess and document the damage. Take photos and make a list of all damaged or destroyed items as best you can.
  • Keep damaged items unless they pose a health hazard.
  • If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts, owners' manuals or warranties for damaged items.
  • Keep all of the receipts related to cleanup and for your living expenses while you were evacuated.

After you've reported the loss, you'll be assigned a claims adjuster (this might take some time, depending on how many people have been impacted by the wildfire).

"The claims adjuster will investigate the circumstances of your loss, examine the documents you provide and explain the process. Take notes during the conversations and don't be afraid to ask questions," the IBC statement continues.

IBC says the insurance company will ask you to complete what's known as a 'proof of loss' form to list the property and/or items that have been damaged or destroyed. You must sign and swear that the statements you make in the form are true.

Again, if you're unsure about anything in the process, ask the adjuster to clarify. 

If you have questions, contact your insurance provider or IBC's consumer information centre at 1-844-227-5422.

Province providing relief to local governments, First Nations

Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) is now available to help community authorities cover disaster-related losses that are not covered by insurance. That includes wildfire damage to public infrastructure (roads and bridges, to name a few). 

Local governments and First Nations impacted by wildfires that started June 16, 2021 can apply for the funding (there are some eligibility requirements). 

Editor's note: This story was updated to include information from the province about Disaster Financial Assistance.