What types of fires are covered?
All policies cover kitchen fires, electrical fires and fire resulting from lightning. A fire caused by an explosion, an
oil spill or a piece of burning debris falling from the sky would also be covered. And if you managed to contain
and put out the fire but your property was damaged by the resulting toxic smoke, that damage would be
Wildfires are usually covered, though in California and other high-risk areas, coverage may be limited or hard
to find. Arson, when a fire is willfully caused, is also covered provided the fire wasn’t started by a member of
your family or anyone else mentioned on the policy.
Certain events are excluded from every policy: war, terrorism, nuclear explosions and earthquakes, to name a
few, though you can add an earthquake coverage rider. If your home is vacant for an extended period of time,
usually 30 days, fire coverage will be excluded. You can remedy this by purchasing a vacant home
endorsement or policy.
What to do before and during a fire
Prevention is the first step in keeping your family safe from a fire. Make sure you have working fire and
carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house and at least one fire extinguisher. The latter will enable you
to put out a kitchen fire quickly or at least prevent it from spreading.
As soon as your fire alarm goes off, grab the fire extinguisher and try to put out the fire. If you are unable to
extinguish the fire, you and your family should leave the house immediately and call 911. If your normal
evacuation route is blocked, find another way out, and crawl to avoid inhaling smoke. If you can’t leave the
room you are in, close all doors, place a wet towel under the door and cover any vents to prevent the smoke
from seeping in and wait for the first responders.
Do not waste any time gathering your valuables. Fire can spread quickly and cut off your escape route. Once
you are out, stay out and keep a safe distance. Regroup and encourage everyone to remain calm. Once
firefighters are on the scene, you can call your insurance company to file a claim.
What is covered
Home insurance will pay for damages resulting from a covered fire up to the limit of coverage. The following
are normally covered:
- Dwelling (homeowners): Any and all damages resulting from the fire or caused by firefighters in
the process of putting it out, including debris removal. The coverage includes walls, ceilings, floors,
imbedded appliances, electrical and plumbing systems and attached structures such as a garage.
- Other structures (homeowners): Damage to sheds, garages, fences, trees and your lawn.
- Improvements (condo owner): Any renovations and upgrades you made to your condo unit.
Damage to the building is covered under the condo association’s policy.
- Personal property: Damage to all items you own that are now damaged or beyond repair.
Valuables may need to be covered by a rider.
- Liability: If the fire originated in your home and damaged your neighbor’s property, your liability
coverage will pay for lawsuits and settlements. Liability actually covers any situation anywhere in
the world where you are found to be liable for causing damages.
Check your policy to see whether you have actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost coverage. Actual cash
value factors in depreciation. The older something is, the greater the depreciation or loss of value. The cost to
rebuild your home or replace your lost valuables may be a lot higher than the actual cash value.
Replacement cost is usually worth the additional cost, since it means your home and lost items will be
replaced by new ones of equal value. You can even get enhanced replacement cost in case the cost to rebuild
is much higher than anticipated due to ordinance laws or other constraints.
As you can see, a standard home insurance policy provides a lot of coverage for a major fire. Your needs may
be different or more extensive than the average. Call your insurance professional to assess your needs or
answer any question you may have about your coverage, replacement cost coverage and home insurance