Canadian Underwriter

B.C. wildfires cause more than $127 million in insured damage: CatIQ

September 27, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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The “two most significant wildfires in British Columbia this summer” caused more than $127 million in insured damage, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said, quoting Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).

The sun is obscured by smoke from wildfires as an RCMP helicopter flies over Kelowna, B.C., on Tuesday September 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The wildfires around Williams Lake caused close to $100 million in insured damage to homes, vehicles and businesses, while the Elephant Hill wildfire caused over $27 million in insured damage, IBC said in a press release on Wednesday. These fires also caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents to emergency centres in Kamloops, Prince George and across the province.

According to the BC Wildfire Service, the Elephant Hill wildfire near Ashcroft was an estimated 192,725 hectares as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday. The wildfire was 95% contained, and “cooler weather and spotty rain is helping the crews make excellent headway,” BC Wildfire Service reported.

“The size and scale of the wildfires this summer have been the largest in British Columbia’s history,” Aaron Sutherland, vice president, Pacific, IBC, said in the release. “These wildfires are yet more evidence that severe weather events are happening with greater frequency and intensity across Canada. Given these trends, a more disciplined and sustained approach is required to help British Columbians prepare for natural disaster. Governments, businesses, and individuals all have a role to play to help build a culture of preparedness in this province.”

Sutherland noted that immediately following the evacuations, IBC and Canada’s insurers were on the ground in B.C.’s Interior and Cariboo regions to help evacuees with their insurance-related questions. “We were proud to work in close partnership with the Government of British Columbia, Emergency Management BC, local municipalities and the Canadian Red Cross to help British Columbians affected by these fires get the service and support they needed,” IBC said in the release.

In early July, IBC encouraged policyholders to discuss policy limits with their insurer. Most home and business policies cover fire damage, IBC noted in a statement. If residents have to leave their homes because of a mandatory evacuation order issued by civil authorities, most homeowner’s and tenant’s policies will provide coverage for “reasonable additional living expenses (ALE) for a specified period of time,” IBC said.

Steve Kee, director of media & digital communications with IBC, told Canadian Underwriter at the time that “each person’s situation will be unique,” but there are several broad categories of claims that fall under additional living expenses (ALE) and some that may not. For example, some policyholders will have coverage for ALE as well as repairs to their homes and replacement of their contents, or their policy may stipulate an overall total for these coverages. Kee also encouraged policyholders to check whether or not they have coverage for secondary/seasonal properties.

B.C.’s wildfire-driven provincial state of emergency expired at midnight Pacific time on Friday, Sept. 15. Initially declared on July 7, the state of emergency was extended four times over the nine weeks that followed. As of Tuesday, there had been 1,282 fires in the current fiscal year that burned a total area of 1,212,351 hectares in the fiscal year, according to statistics from BC Wildfire Service.

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