BC homeowners urged to prepare now for wildfire season

Despite the slow start to hot summer weather, approximately one-third of the province has been given a ‘moderate to extreme’ wildfire danger rating. The Okanagan, Kootenays and southern Vancouver Island are particularly at risk. With the province experiencing an average of 1,700 wildfires annually, homeowners are urged to safeguard their property against potential damage.

  • Aug. 28, 2011 8:00 a.m.

Despite the slow start to hot summer weather, approximately one-third of the province has been given a ‘moderate to extreme’ wildfire danger rating. The Okanagan, Kootenays and southern Vancouver Island are particularly at risk. With the province experiencing an average of 1,700 wildfires annually, homeowners are urged to safeguard their property against potential damage.

“BC homeowners should be taking advantage of the slow start to summer by making wildfire preparations now,” says Karen Hopkins-Lee, Chief Underwriter for Canadian Direct Insurance in Vancouver. “Wildfires cause extensive and costly damage to BC communities every summer, so having the right home insurance is the first step.”

The May, 2011 devastation in the town of Slave Lake, Alberta – where 7,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes – is a recent example of extensive property damage caused by a wildfire. In less than 3 hours, what began as a small blaze grew to envelop 500 hectares. Many evacuees returned to find their houses burned to the ground, and more than 40 percent of the affected area was demolished. The total insured losses are estimated to be over $700 million.

“By the time homeowners receive a wildfire warning, it’s often too late to protect your property,” said Hopkins-Lee. “The time to start preparing is now.”

Canadian Direct Insurance offers the following homeowner protection tips:

•Get your home evaluated by your insurance agent to ensure adequate coverage, particularly following significant renovations. If you rent or own a condo, make sure you also have contents insured.

• Reduce the risk of wildfire damage by removing vegetation – particularly fuel-sources such as bushy or dead plants – from a minimum of ten metres around your home. Your community may also opt to create a ‘fuel break’ to protect all homes within the vicinity.

• Create a concrete or gravel walkway around your home to provide a barrier.

•Use fire-resistant materials for the exterior walls of your home, such as brick, stucco or concrete.

• Use fire-resistant roofing materials. Flammable roofing was a main cause of home loss in the 2003 Kelowna wildfires. Spark arrestors on chimneys are also encouraged.

• Clear gutters of combustible debris like pine needles.

•For fire-prone areas, install a roof-top sprinkler, which can also reduce the cost of your insurance premium.

• Install dual-pane thermal windows, which reduce the radiated heat passing through and provide more protection.

•Store firewood and propane tanks away from your home.

Finally, call *5555 on your cell phone if you spot a wildfire.