What to do — and not do — after wildfire damage to property

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Pateros-scorched (3)

(Credit: Steve Kiggins/KCPQ-TV)

Pateros-scorched (3)

(Credit: Steve Kiggins/KCPQ-TV)

SEATTLE — The NW Insurance Council offers the following key points and recommendations for those who have suffered damage to their homes or businesses from wildfire:

What to do and not do after wildfire damage:

  • Make sure you and your loved ones are safe and away from wildfire danger.
  • Start the claims process by contacting your insurance representative as soon as possible. Provide a description of the damage and a phone number where you can be reached.
  • If safe to do so, take pictures or video of your damaged property.
  • Prepare a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed personal property. The more information you have about your damaged possessions, such as a description of the item, approximate date of purchase and what it would cost to replace or repair, the faster your claim can be settled.
  • Don’t discard anything that is damaged until it has been examined by your adjuster.  You could miss out on coverage for that item.
  • Don’t pay a significant amount for temporary repairs unless authorized by your insurance adjuster.  You could get stuck with the bill if the repairs are deemed excessive.

What’s typically covered?

  • Wildfire is covered under standard homeowners and business owners policies. This includes the structure of your home or business, additional buildings on your residential or business property and the contents inside your home or business.
  • Landscaping, such as trees, plants, shrubs and lawns, damaged by wildfire is covered under your standard homeowners insurance up to specified amount.
  • Additional living expenses are covered if you are unable to live in your home or apartment because of a fire. Most policies will reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses. Keep receipts and records of your expenses.
  • Optional Business Interruption Insurance covers loss of revenue resulting from an insured loss that disrupts business operations. It also can provide extra expenses so the business can operate from a temporary location while repairs are made to your place of business.
  • Damage to your vehicle caused by wildfire is covered provided you have optional Comprehensive Coverage.

To learn more about filing a claim after a disaster, The Insurance Information Institute offers a free online brochure called Settling a Claim After a Disaster. Also, visit NW Insurance Council’s disaster preparation website at GetReadyNW.org.

NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

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