Portland News

Wildfire Safety Season: A Checklist to Protect Your Home

More than 2,500 homes in the U.S. are destroyed every year due to wildfires, recent data gathered by the National Interagency Fire Center found. With a lot of the country experiencing a significant drought and excessive heat, the 2022 fire season could be the most damaging on record.

How can I prepare my home for a fire?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “to reduce ember ignitions and fire spread, trim branches that overhang the home, porch, and deck and prune branches of large trees up to 6 to 10 feet (depending on their height) from the ground. Remove plants containing resins, oils, and waxes. Use crushed stone or gravel instead of flammable mulches in the Immediate Zone (0 to 5 feet around the house). Keep your landscape in good condition.”

The organization also suggests to “ensure your home and neighborhood have legible and clearly marked street names and numbers. Driveways should be at least 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet for emergency vehicle access.”   

Some other helpful tips from the National Fire Protection Association include:

  • Develop, discuss, and practice an emergency action plan with everyone in your home. Include details for handling pets, large animals, and livestock.
  • Know two ways out of your neighborhood and have a predesignated meeting place.
  • Always evacuate if you feel it’s unsafe to stay—don’t wait to receive an emergency notification if you feel threatened from the fire.
  • Conduct an annual insurance policy checkup to adjust for local building costs, codes, and new renovations.
  • Create or update a home inventory to help settle claims faster.

Once a home is fire ready and family, roommates, and other loved ones understand the plan of action in case of an emergency, it’s important homeowners ensure they’re covered for any potential fire tragedies. Checking the homeowner’s insurance policy is a good place to start.

Is fire coverage automatically included in a standard home insurance policy?

“Yes, fire is a peril in a standard home insurance policy and most home insurance policies,” said Michael Orefice, SVP of SmartFinancial, an insurance marketplace that offers some of the biggest names in the insurance industry including Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, Nationwide, and more.

Which types of fires aren’t covered by homeowners’ insurance policies?

“Fires that are intentionally set are not covered by home insurance,” said Orefice. “If you live in a wildfire prone area you may have a harder time finding a home insurance company to give you coverage. You’ll also have to meet certain conditions, like cutting down trees or managing them better, in order to get insured. In general, chances are that you pay a higher premium and/or deductible if you live in a fire prone area, like Southern California.”

What should I do immediately after a fire in regards to insurance claims?

“Even before a fire happens, you should have a home inventory to help you claim the items that were destroyed in your home,” said Orefice. “You’ll need to share your home inventory to get the insurance payout you need to replace your personal property. After a fire, documenting the damage to the home and personal property is very important, too, whether it’s in video or photographs. Call your insurance company right away and tell them about the fire. They will send an adjuster to your home to inspect damages to determine the value of the claim.”

When the proper prevention and preparedness steps are taken before a wildfire, it can be lifesaving to be ready for the worst.

Opinions expressed by Portland News contributors are their own.