HELENA, Mont. – State Auditor Matt Rosendale advises Montanans to prepare for this year’s fire season by creating a home inventory and knowing their insurance policy ahead of time. People should also create a defensible space around their property by removing brush, trimming trees, keeping grasses mowed down, and cleaning pine needles and other combustibles from roofs and gutters.
“Don’t wait until there’s a fire approaching your property to get prepared,” Rosendale said. “People living in the wildland-urban interface or with property in fire-prone areas especially need to take steps ahead of time to be ready for fire season. Warmer weather will bring drier conditions and higher fire risk, so now’s the time to make sure you’re ready in case of a wildfire.”
Rosendale advises Montanans to create a home inventory of possessions that could be damaged or destroyed in a fire. The insurance commissioner’s website has a sample checklist available here. Thorough inventories should include photos and/or video of the property and possessions. Paper inventory lists should be stored in a fireproof safe or at a secondary location, and Rosendale recommends that Montanans keep a digital copy of their inventory online.
Property owners and renters should review their insurance policy and know the details of their coverage. Many policies cover losses indirectly caused by wildfires, such as damage from smoke or fire retardant. Living expenses are often covered in the event of mandatory evacuation, but evacuees will need to keep track of expenses and receipts.
Some property damage may not be covered, or may be limited. Damage to trees, landscaping, and fencing are examples where insurance protection may only apply with capped dollar amounts. Consumers should review their policy and discuss any questions or concerns with their insurance agent.
People who don’t have insurance should get covered now, before their property is at risk. Insurance companies will not write coverage for properties that are at an imminent risk of being destroyed.
After a fire, Montanans should take photos of all damage before it’s cleaned up. If an evacuation occurs, save all receipts of hotel stays and other costs associated with the evacuation, as some of those costs may be covered by insurance if they are documented with receipts.
Montanans who experience losses from wildfire and have questions about their insurance policy or an issue with their insurance company should contact Rosendale’s office at 444-2040 or at csimt.gov.
The insurance commissioner’s website provides additional information for consumers affected by wildfire HERE.
Not all insurance contracts are the same and the protections under a policy can vary greatly. It’s important that policyholders check with their insurance agents or insurance company to verify the protection available under their insurance policy.