Does homeowners insurance cover wildfires?

Depending on your insurer and your policy, damage caused by wildfires may be covered by homeowners insurance. If you live in an area where wildfires are common, damage caused by wildfires may not be covered or you may pay a higher rate and/or carry a separate deductible for wildfire claims. Note that homeowners insurance may not cover wildfire damage to your landscaping.

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How homeowners insurance covers wildfires

Fire is a covered peril on standard homeowners insurance policies. Assuming your policy doesn’t list an exclusion for wildfire, your insurer may help pay for the following:

  • Your home’s structure

    If your residence is damaged or destroyed in a wildfire, dwelling coverage may pay for the repair or rebuild costs up to the limits of your coverage. However, if other homes in your area are being rebuilt simultaneously, the cost of labor and materials will likely increase and that may exceed your dwelling coverage limit. Extended replacement cost or guaranteed replacement cost coverage, offered by some insurers, may cover the difference.

  • Detached structures

    Structures on your property that are damaged by wildfire but aren't attached to your main residence may be covered by your policy’s other structure coverage. These structures include detached garages, sheds, fences, and gazebos.

  • Your belongings

    If your personal property, such as furniture, electronics, clothing, and other home goods, are destroyed by a wildfire, your policy’s personal property coverage may pay to replace the items up to your coverage limits and minus your deductible. Note that if your car is damaged by fire, your auto insurance policy may cover it.

  • Additional living expenses

    If a wildfire damages your home to the point where it's uninhabitable, or you're evacuated due to a wildfire, you could be displaced for weeks or even months while your property is repaired or rebuilt. Loss of use coverage may pay for costs associated with living elsewhere, including your hotel stay and meals, up to your policy limits.

How to get homeowners insurance in wildfire-prone areas

If you live in an area at risk for wildfires, your options for coverage can be limited. Many insurers don’t offer homeowners insurance in fire-prone areas or exclude coverage for wildfire damage.

If you’re unable to obtain coverage from a private company, you may be able to get insurance from your state’s FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) plan. These plans were created to give homeowners with high exposure to events they can’t control, such as wildfires and windstorms, access to insurance when they can’t get protection under a standard homeowners policy.

Each state is responsible for determining what its FAIR plan covers and what its policy limits are. Insurance Business America lists administrator phone numbers for the states offering plans. Because FAIR plans typically cost more than standard homeowners insurance and can have lower policy limits, it's usually best to exhaust all other options before opting for coverage through this type of plan.

Are wildfires common?

The Congressional Research Service notes there were 68,988 wildfires in 2022. Statistics reveal an average of 61,410 wildfires annually and an average of 7.2 million acres impacted annually from 2013-2022. Even just a few embers can cause a wildfire to spread to your home, deck, garage, and other valuables on your property. And, unfortunately, World Resources Institute states that climate change is increasing wildfire activity as the earth continues to warm.

What to do if your home is damaged by wildfire

Here are the steps to follow if a wildfire devastates, or even slightly damages, your home:

  1. Check to see if your home is habitable: Your family’s safety should be your priority and there may be hazards caused by a fire that make your home dysfunctional and therefore, uninhabitable. For instance, your home may have suffered structural damage that makes the property unsafe or the gas, electricity, or plumbing may not be functional.
  2. Find temporary housing: If you’re unable to stay in a hotel or with a family member, neighbor, or friend, your local Red Cross chapter may be able to help with housing options. Your homeowners policy may reimburse you for your hotel stay and other living expenses if your home is uninhabitable and you’re forced to live elsewhere.
  3. Contact your insurer: Speak with your homeowners insurance company or agent to begin the claims process. Your insurer may request documentation regarding the incident (creating a home inventory before a loss occurs can help speed up a homeowners claim), so take photos, if possible, and obtain a fire report from the fire department.

Learn more about what to do in the aftermath of a house fire.

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