Four tips to keep your home safe this wildfire season


Last year, Washington experienced the second-highest number of wildfires in our state's history. With most of Washington under a drought declaration, many predict we could see an even bigger surge in wildfires in 2024. It's crucial to know what steps to take to protect your home and property from wildfires, including revisiting your existing homeowners policies. Here are some essential tips from AAA Washington to safeguard your home for the upcoming fire season:  

1. Know Your Home: Are you Wildfire Ready? Taking care of your home environment can help reduce your home’s fire risk. Avoid storing firewood that can fuel a fire under or near the house. Stack wood piles at least 30 feet away from the house and trim tree branches that hang over the eaves or roof. Remove mulch, leaves, and pine needles around at least a 5-foot perimeter of the house. Keep the area around the house well-watered and green, and prune and remove dead or dying branches from the trees within a 30-foot perimeter. Thin out and space trees and vegetation within a 100-foot perimeter around your home. 

2. Know Your Policy: The first and most obvious question is, “Does my home insurance cover wildfire damage?” The good news is that homeowner insurance policies almost always cover wildfire damage. However, there are exceptional circumstances where a home’s risk is too high, and private insurance isn’t available. Usually, these properties are located in the wilderness and accessible by a single road. Policies tailored for the specific challenges of the Northwest like those offered by AAA Washington ensure that homeowners have adequate protection against regional   

3. Know Your Limits: When reviewing your policy, it's vital to understand your coverage limits, or the maximum amount your policy will pay to repair or rebuild your home and replace your possessions. Homeowner policies assess a home’s value differently, which can significantly impact your claim amount in case of a total loss. This is why it's so important to consult a professional and conduct an account review. 

4. Know Your Score: Insurance companies are now using “FireLine scoring,” a tool that assesses a home's exposure to wildfire hazards at the address level. This includes factors such as your home’s elevation, road access, and surrounding landscape. The higher your risk, the higher your premiums. However, you have control over this. One way to keep the cost of your homeowner’s insurance premium affordable is to raise your damage deductible to a level you are comfortable with. This way, you can manage your insurance costs while ensuring you're protected from unforeseen events.  

Maintaining your home insurance policy should be as routine as keeping your yard. Once you've chosen a policy, ensuring you are protected in case of a fire becomes an ongoing commitment. Regularly reviewing your policy with your insurance agent is essential, ideally at least once every other year and before the fire season starts. And remember, if you're planning any renovations or adding structures to your property, contact your agent in advance. This ensures you’re always fully covered. 

Do you need help figuring out where to start with your insurance? AAA Washington can help you understand your risk and policy options.

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Michael Riley is vice president of insurance at AAA Washington


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