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 Wildfire costs show need for preventative measures

Wildfire costs show need for preventative measures

NatCat costs from summer 2021’s B.C. wildfires reached $77 million in insured damage in White Rock Lake and $78 million in Lytton.

With renovations adding value to homes, and by extension insurable damage risk, it may make sense to encourage homeowners to get in front of those risks.

“The best way to stop a fire is to not let it start,” said Cheryl Evans, director of flood and wildfire resilience at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, who added the National Guide for Wildland-Urban Interface Fires is one source for best practices.

“It’s an amazing document. It’s about looking at mitigating wildfire risk not only at the community level, but down to the residential level and building level as well so it has all of the key best practices that have been identified by experts across the country,” Evans said.

“As you’re doing renovations at your home, the most important thing you can do is upgrade your roof to be fire resilient. That can look like regular shingles, but they are Class-A rated.”

The guide is produced by the Climate-Resilient Buildings and Core Public Infrastructure (CRBCPI) Initiative of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and Infrastructure Canada.

Upgrades are important because homes can burn down even if wildfires don’t reach their neighbourhoods.

“It’s not like a big wall of flame that’s coming in from a forest way far away,” said Evans. “It’s actually these little embers that can float up to two kilometers away from a wildfire and they land on stuff in the yard. So, if you’ve got grass that’s too long, it can ignite and that fire can creep towards the house.”

 Wildfire costs show need for preventative measures

She said there are simple measures property owners can take to remove flammable material within 10 metres of a home.

“Keep the lawn mowed. Clean the leaves and needles out of your eavestrough. Remove things like flammable couch cushions from decks. If you remove those, and embers come along, there’s a lot less likelihood that they will have anything to catch on fire because you’ve cleaned everything up,” said Evans.

“If you have mulch around your house…and that mulch is made out of chopped up bark for example, if embers land on that, there’s a very high likelihood [it] will light on fire and then that will spread to your house,” Evans warned.

Brokers can play a role in getting information into the hands of homeowners, said Peter Braid, CEO of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada.

“There are some very simple, practical steps that homeowners take that are either no cost or low cost to mitigate against severe weather events,” he said.

This article is excerpted from on the appeared in the November 2021 issue of Canadian Underwriter.

Feature image by iStock.com/MaYcaL