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Kelowna fires leave 244 homes destroyed


August 25, 2003   by Canadian Underwriter


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After a month of forest fires raging through areas of B.C., Kelowna is now the target zone. Some of the 24,000 residents under evacuation order were returning to their homes on Sunday, but many did not know if they would even have homes to return to.
At least 244 homes were destroyed by the fires which covered almost 2002 square kilometers in the Okanagan region. And the end is still not in sight for B.C. residents, with more than 800 fires still raging and the province still under a state of emergency.
Major damage has already been experienced in the McLure- Barriere (north of Kamloops), Chilko Lake and McGillvray regions, with fires covering almost 2,000 square kilometers of the province.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) made its second release regarding the B.C. fires on Monday, reassuring Kelowna-area residents that damage from the fires should be covered under standard homeowners’ and business policies. “There is always some anxiety and confusion over this issue at times like this, and we want to assure everyone that property insurance policies in force at the time of the loss will in fact respond to any damage,” says IBC regional vice president Lindsay Olsen. She notes that even if homes were not damaged, those under government evacuation order should be eligible for living expenses coverage.
She also called on insurers to “take care” of their customers when it comes to renewing homeowners’ policies in the affected regions. “We have determined that insurers are automatically renewing policies for all existing customers, including those at imminent risk.”
Crawford Adjusters Canada notes that the forest fire threat remains serious. The adjusting firm expects that the toll of homes destroyed by the fire will exceed the 244 reported so far, and notes that 17,000 people still stand on evacuation alert. Nonetheless, Crawford CEO Glenn Gibson says, “We are encouraged by reports on Sunday that favourable weather conditions helped firefighters’ efforts to battle the blaze. We remain optimistic that the situation will be brought under control soon.”
Crawford B.C. vice president Jim Eso says the company is doing its best to respond to claims, but is also awaiting government approval to enter some of the affected areas which may still be considered unsafe.