Arizona’s Wildfire Season Poses Many Risks for Homeowners

April 1, 2009

As the drought in the Southwest worsens, the wildfire season in Arizona grows longer, burning more acreage and threatening private property in forested areas.

“The Arizona State Forestry Division estimates more than 4,000 homes, businesses, and other structures were threatened by wildland fires in the past three years,” says Ron Williams, executive director for Arizona Insurance Council (AIC). “Including autos, boats and other personal property, the economic losses in 2009 could be in the millions of dollars.”

Arizona Firewise, a cooperative effort of state and federal forest, wildfire and wildlife organizations, has published a booklet, “Living With Wildfire: Homeowner’s Firewise Guide for Arizona.” It is a comprehensive review of wildfire behavior, survivable space and Firewise techniques, checklists for various landscaping and housing materials, and emergency guidelines, AIC said.

In addition, the property and casualty insurers of Arizona, represented by AIC, suggest homeowners review their policies. An annual insurance policy check-up is an essential factor in protecting ahome and belongings any time of year, AIC said. Home and business owners should contact their agent or insurance company to make certain they have the proper level of coverage.

Key points agents and insurance companies should go over include:
-Does the policy cover the current costs of rebuilding your house? The increases in cost for lumber, steel, concrete and copper have significantly outpaced other products. Those price increases affect what insurers pay to repair and rebuild homes and the costs of satisfying those claims is shared by all homeowner insurance consumers.

-Does thepolicy provide coverage for additional living expenses, such as hotel bills and restaurant meals for the time you are evacuated from your home and/or while your home is being rebuilt?

– Is the insurance company or agent aware of any improvements you have made on your home or business? Updating a kitchen, new carpeting or installing a swimming pool adds to the value of your home. The same applies to business improvements.

-Has the homeowner upgraded the home electrical system or plumbing system, or installed anti-theft alarms or fire sprinklers? These improvements could help reduce your insurance premium, depending on your insurance company’s business practices.

Arizona property owners can access wildfire safety and property saving tips online at the AIC Web site.

Source: AIC

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