An estimated 90% of the homes in the Waterways neighbourhood of Fort McMurray, Alta. have been lost as a major wildfire continues to sweep through the town.
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo said in a media briefing on Wednesday that as of 12:30 p.m., there was 90% loss of Waterways homes and a 50% loss in the Abasand neighbourhood; four homes lost in Grayling Terrace and six more damaged, one home downtown and in Thickwood; two houses lost in Dickensfield; and 13 trailers lost in Timberlea.
As many as 80,000 people faced an evacuation order. Photo: @SimonOstler.
Residences were not affected in the Gregoire and Saline Creek areas, the briefing said, adding that damage is under assessment in the Draper neighbourhood and Wood Buffalo remains damaged, with an estimated 30 homes lost. A boil water advisory has also been issued for the entire region, including camps.
Media reports suggest that as many as 88,000 people faced an evacuation order and 1,600 structures were destroyed. The fire has also grown to an estimated 10,000 hectares in size.
Most home and business insurance policies cover fire damage, the Insurance Bureau of Canada noted in a media release. “If residents have to leave their homes because of a mandatory evacuation order issued by civil authorities, most home and tenant’s insurance policies will provide coverage for reasonable additional living expenses for a specified period of time,” the release said.
The government of Alberta is advising people not to travel to Fort McMurray on either Highway 63 or 881 due to heavy smoke and fire. “Only essential travel should be undertaken,” the government said in a statement. Residents in rural communities are also asked to conserve water to protect against water shortage and avoid any non-essential uses of water, including bathing and washing.
Crawford & Company, an independent provider of claims solutions to the risk management and insurance industry as well as self-insured entities, said in a statement on Wednesday that it has been closely monitoring the developing situation and is rapidly mobilizing resources to respond to the region.
The company added that its ClaimsAlert call centre is receiving a “large number of calls from policyholders that are being evacuated in the region who are seeking advice and assistance.”
Crawford & Company added that it is monitoring call volumes closely and “preparing for an influx of those calls as evacuees reach safety and are able to contact us. Crawford’s Catastrophe Response Team is actively communicating with our insurer partners, commercial and government clients to establish an early assessment of their exposure and engage the Catastrophe Response Plans we have in place with them. Work is now underway to estimate claims volumes through policy counts and media reports from the region. Technical resources including loss adjusters, engineers and accountants from the Western region, across Canada, and around the world are ready to attend losses as soon as the region is cleared for entry.”
Pat Van Bakel, chief executive officer and president of Crawford & Company, said that “we understand that the magnitude of the event that is occurring in the Fort McMurray area has not yet been fully realized and is changing rapidly. As we learned in Kelowna and Slave Lake, this event will have an impact on the community and the people in it for quite some time.”
Economical Insurance will also be mobilizing its catastrophe response team and is committed to actively supporting local policyholders and brokers throughout the claims process, the company reported. “We are trying to locate our policyholders to provide them with emergency funding right away so they can carry on with their lives,” said Trevor Brick, western regional claims manager at Economical.
Another insurer, Aviva Canada, said that it is ready to take calls now, and it will open a claims centre in Lac la Biche on Thursday. Senior Aviva claims representatives will open the temporary command centre at the Canalta Lac la Biche Hotel at 9905 83 Avenue, Aviva Canada said in a statement. As soon as the evacuation order has been lifted from Fort McMurray, a new temporary Aviva location will be set up in the town and adjusters will be able to respond directly to the catastrophe.
According to a statement from independent adjusting and claims management firm ClaimsPro, following Tuesday’s evacuation directive, all employees of ClaimsPro’s Fort McMurray branch office were able to leave safely. The company said that all calls to the branch located on Centennial Drive are being redirected and that the branch has secured nearby accommodations, ensuring that operations will continue without disruption.
“Our hearts go out to the residents of Fort McMurray, including our staff and their loved ones who are directly impacted by this unprecedented catastrophe,” said Ross Betteridge, President of ClaimsPro. “Though ClaimsPro is now a national company, we began as a single branch in Alberta. We have roots here, and we share Alberta’s shock as this situation unfolds. We are ready to help in any way that we can.”
Independent loss adjusting service company Cunningham Lindsey said in a statement on Thursday that it has deployed adjusters on site for emergency response, and its call centre is responding to all emergency inquiries 24/7.
Kernaghan Adjusters Ltd.’s cat team is also ready for immediate deployment, starting with its Alberta adjusters and Fort McMurray office. Alberta regional manager Russ Fitzgerald is managing the Fort McMurray team and the team is available 24/7.