Will my insurance cover wildfire-related evacuation costs?

Q. There's a wildfire raging near my house and the authorities have ordered everyone to leave. Is there coverage for my expenses?

A. With hot summer weather each year comes an uptick in questions about coverage related to wildfires. Repairing or replacing a fire-damaged home is one of the key elements in a homeowners policy, as are the costs for temporarily living elsewhere if that fire makes the home uninhabitable.

But what if your home has not suffered damage and you're ordered to leave anyway? Civil authorities may issue an evacuation order when a wildfire threatens a populated area, or when one or more nearby homes have already suffered damage and there's risk of injury or damage to nearby people or property.

While most insurance coverage kicks in only after a direct loss, your policy's Loss of Use provision can be triggered even without damage to your home if the authorities order a wildfire evacuation. The relevant coverage is an Additional Living Expense benefit that covers your increased costs to stay in a hotel or buy food, or a simplified Fair Rental Value benefit that reimburses you for the market rental rate, with no receipts necessary.

The duration of this benefit is limited when it's triggered by an evacuation order, so once you've reached a safe location, please take a moment to call us about the situation while awaiting the "All clear!" from authorities.

The Sleepy Hollow wildfire near Wenatchee kicked off the season a bit early this year, though thankfully it's now mostly contained. Summer is heating up, though, and several wildfires remain active in Washington and Oregon. Our recent poll found that 39% of people who say they live in areas prone to wildfire haven't taken all of the necessary precautions to help protect their home from fire, so let's all do our part to reduce risks! Check out our Don't Get Burned page for information about current wildfires, along with tips to help you stay safe.

by  Jaime Layng

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