Insurance and forest fires | Columbia Basin Herald


LAKE MOSES Many things can damage a home, but fire is different, according to insurance agent Steve Crepson.

“You can save a lot of things from water, but you can’t save things from fire,” Crepson said. “As soon as it burns. Gone forever. Those memories are the part of the cost that you can never recoup. Paintings, sentimental quilts, things like that. They can never be recycled.”

Crapson, an exclusive agent for Allstate Insurance, said homeowners, especially those living in rural, suburban and high-risk areas far from the immediate response of fire departments, are better off taking a preventative approach to fire risk. than recovery in mind.

According to a press release from the Northwest Insurance Council, wildfires destroyed more than 1.9 million acres in Washington, Oregon and Idaho in 2021. Despite a cooler and wetter spring in 2022, this year’s fire season is already upon us.

Citing the recent wildfires near Lynd and the ongoing fire on Vantage Highway, the council in a press release advised anyone living on the border between wildland and urban areas where wildfires cause significant damage to homes and structures to have an evacuation plan and review their insurance coverage . .

The good news, according to the press release, is that fire damage and loss, including wildfires, is covered by standard homeowners, renters and business insurance.

The bad news, Crepson noted, is that everyone should make sure their policy covers the cost of reconstruction, and rates can be higher, especially if you’re in a high-risk area.

“Look at your policy and the cost of restoration,” he said. “Upgrade it to cover at least 80% of the cost of restoration.”

Crepson said that in an informal survey of builders, he found that a typical home now costs about $200 per square foot to build. He recounted working with a client who had been quoted a lower price by another insurance company, who then discovered that the policy did not adequately restore his existing home.

“Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples,” he said.

Crapson said the distance from the fire station also matters. Some insurance companies charge higher rates for homes located 10 or more miles from a fire station, while others set this high risk level at 25 miles. In one case, Crapson said, the difference was $4,000 a year for one homeowner.

There are also landscaping and construction practices that can limit fire damage, Crapson said. Homes can be built with metal roofing, cement board siding, and even metal siding. If possible, window sashes made from something other than wood should be used to reduce the risk to the home itself, Crapson said. The insurance companies he represents advise policyholders to follow the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Firewise guidelines (www.dnr.wa.gov/firewise), which advise homeowners to create a 100-foot buffer around their homes, keep trash, leaves and weeds cleared , the grass is cut and the trees are 15 feet apart.

In fact, Crapson said, the companies he represents will conduct home inspections as part of the policy writing and maintenance process to see what steps a homeowner can take to reduce the risk of fire damage.

“When we start a policy, we do house inspections,” he said. “About every 10 years, the house gets re-inspected.”

Crepson said most insurance companies will advise a homeowner when they see a potential hazard and suggest steps to reduce the risk. This not only helps the insurance company save money, but also helps the insured.

“The fire danger is being brought up because it’s the second biggest claim we have in this area after wind,” he said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at [email protected]

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