Canadian Underwriter

Newfoundland’s largest wildfire in 60 years: what the P&C industry needs to know

August 8, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

Big forest fire and clouds of dark smoke in pine stands. Flame is starting to damage the trunk. Whole area covered by flame

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A long-burning forest fire in Newfoundland has charred over 10,800 hectares, but one claims professional says they’ve yet to see any claims come through, since the affected areas are not densely populated. 

The fire has been burning for close to two weeks in central Newfoundland and has prompted road closures to the Bay d’Espoir Highway, which is the only road connecting the communities of Harbour Breton, Hermitage and Conne River to the Trans-Canada Highway, according to The Canadian Press. 

A state of emergency was declared for the areas of Grand Falls-Windsor, Bishop’s Falls and the Connaigre Peninsula and was extended to the area of Botwood on Sunday afternoon.  

Grand Falls-Windsor has a population of 13,853 at the 2021 census, followed by Bishop’s Falls with 3,082, and Botwood with 2,875, according to Statistics Canada.  

“Assuming this gets enough proximity to some of those municipalities, and fire and smoke damage claims, that would be the direct physical damage component,” says Rannoch Harley, director of loss adjusting in Atlantic Canada at Crawford and Company Canada.

“But then there’s all the ancillary losses that you can have.” 

Some homeowner’s policies may have additional living expense coverages that trigger in the absence of direct physical damage, Harley says.

N.L’s Premier Andrew Furey, who says the wildfire has been dubbed the largest in N.L since 1961, has urged some nearby communities to prepare for possible evacuation. 

Harley says claims could, in some cases, arise from civil orders that displace them. “If there’s a prohibition on access by civil authority, there can be people that are displaced from this kind of event that actually can secure coverage under the policy, even if they don’t have damage to their homes, in some cases.” 

Businesses may also hold commercial policy coverages that trigger if their business’ services are interrupted, although wording differs from policy to policy, Harley says.  

Deputy mayor Roy Drake of Harbour Breton says his community is running out of food as it remains cut off from the rest of the island. The three grocery stores in Harbour Breton, N.L., will likely be out of food within the next day or two, Drake, who owns a store himself, tells The Canadian Press.  

The last time the road connecting the community to the rest of N.L. was opened was last Thursday morning, according to the Department of Forestry’s regular Twitter updates. 

The provincial government reported, as of Sunday, four active fires covering about 10,800 hectares. Based on the 20-year average, there are 118 wildfires burning 22,993 hectares in Newfoundland and Labrador each year, according to the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture. 


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