When should I file my insurance claim?
As soon as you are able to. Most homeowners insurance policies have strict deadlines policyholders must adhere to, so you should file your claim as soon as possible.
My home burned down. Do I still have to pay my mortgage?
Generally, yes, although some lenders might give you a grace period in which they won’t penalize you for late payments. It’s important that you check with your lender to determine what their disaster relief policies are.
If my home burned down, do I still have to pay my utility bills?
You will need to contact your utility providers to best determine what sort of disaster relief plan, if any, they have in place for customers.
Will my insurance policy cover my living expenses if I can no longer live in my home?
Most homeowners insurance policies cover “Additional Living Expenses” if you can’t live in your home due to a severe loss like wildfire damage. Additional Living Expenses reimburse expenses beyond what you would normally spend while living in your home, such as hotel bills, apartment rent, restaurant meals, storage, moving costs, and other out-of-pockets expenses you incur while your home is being rebuilt or repaired.
My home didn’t burn down, but my property sustained soot and smoke damage. Will my insurance cover it?
Homeowners insurance typically covers a variety of losses stemming from storms, fires, and other disasters. However, specific coverage depends on the nature of your policy and where you live. In certain wildfire prone areas, homeowners might have had to purchase additional coverage in order to recover damages.
If my business burned down, will my loss of business income be covered by my insurance company?
Generally, yes. Most business insurance policies will cover some loss of business income if your business is interrupted due to a natural disaster such as a wildfire.
However, insurance companies will often challenge your income loss claims in an attempt to minimize the amount you receive, so it can be difficult to get the full amount you are owed.
Additionally, many businesses may experience other losses that are not easily covered in the claims process. Vineyards, for example, may face difficulties receiving coverage for spoilage due to utility failures, loss of vines, smoke taint of grapes, and more.
How do I receive my mail while I’m displaced?
If you are temporarily evacuated after the wildfires, you can submit an online request to ask that your local post office hold your mail at the office for a limited period of time while you’re away.
However, if you have lost your home, or are displaced for a longer period of time due to the wildfires, you can submit an online change of address form to forward your mail to a new, temporary address while your home is being repaired or rebuilt via the official United States Postal Service Change of Address page.
What are the potential health effects of wildfires for me and my family?
In the short term, exposure to wildfire smoke can cause symptoms such as itchy, burning eyes, runny nose, cough, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breezing, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For those with pre-existing lung and heart conditions, these symptoms can be even more severe.
While the specific long-term health effects of wildfire smoke are not well understood, it is known that wildfire smoke is more toxic than other types of smoke. It’s also known that exposure to any type of smoke can raise your risk for respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Are wildfires becoming more frequent year over year?
Yes. Studies show that wildfire seasons in California and the rest of the West Coast are getting steadily worse. The fire season now lasts nearly three months longer than in the 1970s.
The Economist reports that fires in the 2010s burned 6.8 million acres on average, up from 3.3 million acres in the 1990s. A 2016 study by researchers at the University of Idaho and Columbia University also found that wildfires have become twice as destructive over the past three decades, burning over 10.4 million acres of land between 1984 and 2015.
Many scientists believe climate change is to blame for the worsening fire seasons. Research links the hotter, dryer conditions that foster intense wildfires with human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. And, as the planet gets hotter and drier, it’s likely that these trends will continue for the foreseeable future.
How do wildfires usually start?
Although wildfires can occur naturally, most are sparked by human error. That spark can start a fire if it’s in the presence of oxygen and fuel, such as dry grass, brush, or trees. And Overgrown forests and thick vegetation can fuel a fire to grow out of control.
Conditions in the weather and environment also play an important role in the spread of a fire. Conditions, such as drought, winds, and extreme heat, can cause a fire to spread more quickly.