Henrichs Insurance Services, Inc.



30700 E 1700 North Rd
Saunemin, IL 61769



Burning Land: Protect Your Home from Wildfires

From January through the middle of August 2017, more than 42,000 wildfires burned over 6.3 million acres of land across the nation — higher in both categories than last year and the highest number of fires for the period since 2012.1 Unfortunately, in many areas, January through August is just a prelude to the real fire season. The nine costliest wildfires in U.S. history all ignited in September, October, or November.2

Are You in a Hot Spot?

Wildfires can occur in any state, but the dry, hot West generally faces the highest risk. Based on number of households with high or extreme risk of wildfire, the top 10 most fire-prone states in 2017 are California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Washington, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Montana. Based on percentage of homes, however, Montana tops the list with 28% of homes exposed to high or extreme risk of wildfires. New Mexico and Wyoming are also at high risk in 2017.3

These are only projections, and sparks can fly almost anywhere. In 2016, there was also major wildfire activity in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Alaska, Kansas, and Nevada.4

Sadly, about 90% of wildfires in the United States are caused by people through activities such as unattended campfires, burning debris, negligently discarding cigarettes, and arson. Natural causes include lightning and lava flows.5

No matter what the cause, wildfires need fuel, so areas near brush, forests, and other vegetation are especially risky. Ironically, the winter rains that brought some relief to western states such as California also caused greater vegetation growth that can serve as fuel in the dry months.6


Maintain a Survivable Space

Although the causes of wildfires may be outside your control, there are important steps you can take to help protect yourself, your loved ones, and your home.

  • Create a defensible perimeter around the outside of your home, free of trees and shrubs that could catch fire easily. Clean roof surfaces and gutters of pine needles, leaves, and branches to avoid accumulation of flammable materials.
  • Keep all combustibles such as firewood, picnic tables, and boats away from structures.   
  • Attach a non-flammable screen over the flue opening of every chimney or stovepipe. Mesh openings of the screen should not exceed ½ inch. 
  • Consider installing fire-resistant roofing and/or siding material. Wood siding, cedar shakes, exterior wood paneling, and other highly combustible materials should be treated with fire-retardant chemicals. 
  • Dispose of stove or fireplace ashes and charcoal briquettes only after soaking them in a metal pail of water.   
  • Store gasoline in an approved safety can away from occupied buildings.   
  • Locate propane tanks far enough away from buildings for valves to be shut off in case of fire. Keep the area clear of flammable vegetation. 
  • Keep a garden hose connected to a faucet.

Create a Wildfire Action Plan

If you live in a fire-prone area, it’s wise to prepare in advance, even if you don’t expect a fire this year. A wildfire action plan should include:

  • An emergency supply kit 
  • A list of possessions to take with you
  • A list of steps to take before you leave your home  
  • A designated meeting place   
  • A family communication plan

For more information on creating a wildfire action plan, assembling an emergency supply kit, and preparing for a potential evacuation, see the CalFire website at readyforwildfire.org/Wildfire-Action-Plan/.

Review Your Insurance

Standard homeowners and renters policies generally cover damage caused by fire and smoke, or from firefighters putting out a fire, up to policy limits. Your insurance may also pay extra living expenses while your home is being repaired or rebuilt.

Your home and belongings should be insured for their full replacement cost. If you are underinsured, it could prove difficult or impossible to rebuild a structure or replace your lost belongings at current market prices.

A thorough home inventory — complete with photos, video, receipts, model numbers, and appraisals — could make it easier to settle with your insurer in the aftermath of a devastating fire. Copies of your inventory and other policy documents should be kept online, in a fireproof safe, or in a location away from your home.

Regardless of where you live, fire can be a threat to you, your family, and your home. Taking time to prepare now could help you and your loved ones avoid enduring costly and devastating losses.