Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Wildfires?

A standard homeowners insurance policy will typically cover losses due to fire, including wildfires, but you’ll need to check your policy for exclusions.

Lindsay Frankel
Written byLindsay Frankel
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Lindsay FrankelInsurance Writer
  • 5+ years in auto insurance and personal finance writing

  • Featured in top personal finance publications

Lindsay is a widely published creator of auto insurance content. She also specializes in real estate, banking, credit cards, and other personal finance topics.

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Danny Smith
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Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

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Updated November 27, 2023

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Over the past two decades, the share of Americans exposed to wildfire risks more than doubled. Wildfires pose a greater threat in the western states, with more than 70% of exposed Americans living in California.[1] Some insurance companies have either excluded wildfire coverage from homeowners policies in high-risk areas or stopped offering insurance in those areas altogether.[2]

To find out if your home insurance covers wildfires, you’ll need to read your policy. Learn about some situations when your policy may not cover a wildfire, what you can do to reduce your risk, and how to file a claim if a wildfire damages your home or belongings.

When will homeowners insurance cover wildfires?

Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover fire damage, whether the flames start within or outside your home, as long as the fire is accidental.[3] However, if you live in a fire-prone area (use this tool from Risk Factor to check your risk), you might have difficulty getting a policy, or your insurer may exclude wildfires from coverage under your policy.

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When does homeowners insurance not cover wildfire damage?

Homeowners insurance won’t cover wildfire damage if wildfire events are listed as an excluded cause of loss in your policy. Read your policy thoroughly to identify the exclusion, which will likely be noted in the policy and definition sections of your homeowners insurance agreement. If your policy is a named-perils policy rather than an all-risk policy, read the list of covered perils to ensure wildfires are covered.

Your insurance policy may also provide conditional coverage for wildfires if you take the appropriate home maintenance efforts to keep defensible space around your home. If that’s the case, make sure to stay proactive about managing the vegetation surrounding your home.

Keep in Mind

If wildfire damage is excluded from your policy, or if your insurer cancels your coverage because you live in a high-risk area, one option is to purchase your state’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plan. Note that these plans only provide basic coverage, tend to be expensive, and are intended to be used as a last resort.[4]

You should shop around for standard home insurance policies from private companies that offer wildfire coverage before choosing a state-mandated FAIR Plan.

What homeowners insurance will cover in a wildfire

Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover damage to your property after a wildfire, including:

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/c922a01b77/house.svg

    Coverage A: Dwelling coverage

    Dwelling insurance covers your home and any attached structures up to the limits of your policy after a covered peril, such as a wildfire.

  • car in carage

    Coverage B: Other structures coverage

    Your homeowners insurance will cover other structures, such as garages and tool sheds, under Coverage B, which is typically capped at 10% of your dwelling coverage limit. You may be able to add more coverage for an additional premium.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/32ed42213e/personal-property.svg

    Coverage C: Personal property coverage

    Your policy will cover your personal belongings up to your personal property coverage limit. There may be sublimits for certain categories of items, such as jewelry or fine art. If you own expensive valuables, you may consider scheduled coverage for an additional premium so you’ll be fully protected in case of a wildfire.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/c61ab9bfc2/loss-of-use-2.svg

    Coverage D: Loss-of-use coverage

    If you need to live somewhere else while your home is rebuilt or repaired after a covered peril, Coverage D will pay for those additional living expenses up to the limits of your policy.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/001e1e2a4c/legal-protection.svg

    Coverage E: Personal liability coverage

    If a neighbor accuses you of starting a wildfire that damages their home, the personal liability coverage in your home insurance policy may cover the cost of your legal defense up to the limits of your policy.

    Note that if it’s determined that you caused the fire, however, your insurance policy may not cover you at all.[5]

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/4c9753bdbe/medical-payments.svg

    Coverage F: Medical payments to others

    If someone who doesn’t live in your household gets injured during a wildfire, this coverage can help pay for their necessary medical bills up to the limits of your policy.

How to ensure wildfires are covered by your home insurance

Here’s what you should do to make sure your home insurance policy will cover wildfire damage:

  • Ready your policy carefully. If you have an open-peril policy, make sure wildfires aren’t named as an exclusion anywhere in the policy. If you have a named-peril policy, make sure wildfires are listed as a covered peril.

  • Contact your insurance agent. If you have any questions about your policy, talk to your agent.

  • Keep an eye out for notifications from your insurer. Your insurer must tell you between one and three months before policy renewal (depending on your state laws) if it intends to cancel or change your coverage. If your insurer won’t renew your policy or will no longer cover wildfires, you should begin shopping for another plan quickly.[6]

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How to file a homeowners insurance claim after a wildfire

Follow these steps to file a home insurance claim after a wildfire:

  1. Assess the damage. Make a list of every item damaged during the wildfire and take photos and videos to share with the adjuster.

  2. Contact your agent. Call your insurance company or contact your insurance agent directly. You’ll need your policy number and other identifying information on hand.[7]

  3. Schedule an appointment with the adjuster. Your insurer will send an insurance adjuster to look at the damage and determine your settlement amount.

  4. Understand your policy. Your insurance company will either pay the replacement cost for your damaged property or determine the actual cash value (ACV) based on depreciation, depending on your policy. If you have an ACV policy, it won’t provide the funding you need to rebuild your home or replace your personal belongings. Replacement cost coverage is more robust.

  5. Make sure you agree with the settlement. If you don’t think your insurance company offered enough money based on your policy, you may want to get an independent appraisal or hire an attorney to help you dispute the settlement.

  6. Begin repairs. If you have a mortgage, your insurance company will likely write a check to both you and your lender or servicer. Your lender or servicer will release the funds as you complete the work to repair or rebuild, providing a portion of the funds before you hire a contractor.

How to reduce wildfire risk

You should take the following measures to protect your home well in advance of wildfire season:

  • Use fire-resistant building materials. If you’re building or updating your home, make sure your roof has a Class A fire rating and opt for fire-resistant siding and other materials.

  • Screen with metal mesh. Cover the vents in your attic, foundation, and eaves with one-eighth-inch metal mesh, screen decks, and stilt foundations.

  • Replace your windows. Install tempered glass windows with at least two panes.

  • Replace combustible gates and fences. Make sure that your fencing is noncombustible, especially within five feet of your property.[8]

  • Maintain defensible space. Remove flammable vegetation and debris within five feet of your home, including cleaning your roofs and gutters. Ensure 10 feet of space between tree crowns and prune tree branches close to the ground within five to 30 feet of your home. Follow other suggestions in the home ignition zone checklist from the National Fire Protection Association.

Wildfire insurance FAQs

If you still have questions about wildfire home insurance coverage, this additional information may help as you research your coverage options.

  • Does insurance cover smoke damage from a wildfire?

    Usually. Most basic homeowners insurance policies cover smoke damage from a fire, including a wildfire, even if the fire didn’t reach your home. However, you should check your home insurance documents for exclusions.

  • What types of wildfire damages are typically covered by homeowners insurance?

    In most cases, your homeowners policy will cover damage from fire and smoke to the structure of your home, including outbuildings, and your personal belongings. Home insurance also generally covers water damage from extinguishing a fire. Your insurance company will also pay for you to live somewhere else during the repairs, if necessary.

  • What options are there for homeowners insurance in wildfire-prone areas?

    It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes from home insurance companies that serve the area. If you reside in a high-risk fire zone and can’t find an insurer that will write you a policy, you can access your state’s FAIR Plan. Be aware that state-mandated FAIR Plans come with limited coverage.

  • Are there any limitations or exclusions to wildfire coverage in homeowners insurance?

    Homeowners insurance won’t cover a fire intentionally caused by the homeowner. Some policies may also exclude insurance coverage for wildfires altogether. If your policy covers wildfires, the coverage will be subject to the policy limits and terms. That’s why it’s important to choose a replacement cost policy with adequate limits.

  • How do insurance companies assess the risk of wildfires when determining coverage and premium rates?

    Insurance companies determine premiums and coverage limits based on wildfire risk modeling, which considers several factors that affect the likelihood of a wildfire and the cost to rebuild.[9]

Sources

  1. Nature. "Human and infrastructure exposure to large wildfires in the United States."
  2. New York Times. "As Wildfires Get Worse, Insurers Pull Back From Riskiest Areas."
  3. III. "Insurance for wildfires."
  4. Naic.org. "Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plans."
  5. Naic.org. "Homeowners Insurance."
  6. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Consumer advisory: Take action when home insurance is cancelled or costs surge."
  7. Naic.org. "What You Need to Know When Filing a Homeowners Claim."
  8. Colorado State Forest Service. "Protect Your Home & Property from Wildfire."
  9. U.S. Department of Agriculture - Forest Service. "Innovating wildfire insurance."
Lindsay Frankel
Lindsay FrankelInsurance Writer

Lindsay Frankel is a content writer specializing in personal finance and auto insurance topics. Her work has been featured in publications such as LendingTree, The Balance, Coverage.com, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, and FinanceBuzz.

Danny Smith
Edited byDanny Smith
Photo of an Insurify author
Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

Featured in

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