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Early Wildfire Season in Western States Has Homeowners on Alert

Posted in Fire Insurance , Home Insurance
by: Jessica Bosari

May 14th, 2014

fire season

In the West, an early wildfire season has firefighters taxed and homeowners on alert. From January to April, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in Sacramento responded to more than twice as many wildfires than the year before. According to NBC News, Northern California is seeing almost three times its usual number of wildfires, which could affect homeowners insurance rates.

The problem is compounded by severe drought, climate change and high population. With more people moving into woodland areas, firefighters cannot allow nature to take its course. When homes are in the path of a fire they must respond.

Mark Svoboda, climatologist from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told Insurance Journal, “In California, the population has doubled since the 1970s, putting more structures at risk and increasing the potential loss due to fire.”

Fire departments in Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Utah and Texas are all reporting record activity. In the Northwest, Oregon and Alaska are facing more fires that usual, as well. Nevada is expected to face record numbers by June. Southeastern areas of Colorado and Northern New Mexico are experiencing Dust Bowl conditions like those of the 1930s.

Related: Homeowner Bill of Rights Misses Chance to Lower Homeowners Insurance Rates

How Can Homeowners Protect Themselves from Wildfires?

Chubb Insurance offers a list of steps homeowners in wildfire-prone areas can take to lower their risk:

  • Replace wooden and other flammable-material roofs with ceramic tile.
  • Use stone and other fire-resistant materials in place of landscaping mulch.
  • Remove flammable, dead and dry vegetation and replace it with fire-resistant plants.
  • Clean gutters and areas beneath decks of vegetation and other flammable debris.
  • Place wire mesh on chimneys and other openings to keep airborne embers from entering the home.
  • Keep propane tanks away from the home.

You might consider hiring a wildfire defense service to inspect your home for added risk. Before you do that, check with your insurance company. Some, like Chubb, offer free services to their policyholders.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region

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