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Once burned, twice shy

This past July, Integris Credit Union (28,000 members, $800 million in assets), based in Prince George, BC, warned members on its blog that insurance companies were backing down from insuring homes in the region — for fear of getting burned. “Each insurance company that we deal with has their own defined restrictions about whether we can arrange insurance in certain zones, but generally if your property is in imminent threat, we will likely be prevented from arranging any new coverage,” read the blog. At the time, the province was in a state of emergency: nearly 16,000 displaced people and another 11,000 under evacuation alert, the CBC reported.

Many underwriters issue blanket restrictions on new policies, based on the proximity to active fires. An Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) spokesperson stated that it was difficult but not impossible to initiate a new insurance policy when a home is near a wildfire emergency. An insurance company would look at such things as how far a home was from a hydrant or fire department and the location in order to determine the risk factor for a property, IBC stated.

This year was officially the worst year for forest fires in the province, with 13,000 square kilometres ravaged by flames by the end of August, British Columbia’s Wildfire Service reported. There had been 2,000 fires since April 1, most caused by lightning. More than 4,500 people fought the infernos, including teams from Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Washington State. ◊