As wildfires ramp up, here’s what to know about filing an insurance claim

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia wildfire: Video shows terrifying drive through heart of raging fire'
Nova Scotia wildfire: Video shows terrifying drive through heart of raging fire
WATCH: Nova Scotia wildfire - Video shows terrifying drive through heart of raging fire – May 29, 2023

Canadians affected by wildfires in Nova Scotia and Alberta may be wondering whether insurance will cover damages.

More than 16,000 residents have been affected by a mandatory evacuation order in Tantallon and Hammonds Plains area, about a 30-minute drive from downtown Halifax, due to a 788-hectare wildfire.

The area has declared a state of emergency, as well as Shelburne County in the southwest part of the province, which is experiencing a 6,270-hectare wildfire.

Global News reached out with questions to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

IBC spokesperson Gloria Haydock told Global News that “virtually every home policy covers damage by fire,” which includes that caused by wildfires.

She said it is still important to check your coverage if affected by the fires, though, as damage to vehicles is not mandatory coverage and may be optional.

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Insurance may also include reimbursement for temporary accommodations and meal expenses for those who have to evacuate, Haydock said. She said receiving reimbursement, which insurance calls “additional living expenses,” is usually processed fairly quickly.

Click to play video: 'Fast-moving fire has not expanded its perimeter, Halifax mayor says'
Fast-moving fire has not expanded its perimeter, Halifax mayor says

Haydock recommends those affected by the fires report their claims as soon as possible, noting that many insurance companies have claim service available 24/7.

She said to detail your claim as much as possible by listing your possessions that may be damaged or destroyed. Evidence of your possessions could be available online, such as a photo on social media or an electronic receipt or warranty information, according to Haydock.

“It’s important to document your claim,” she said. “The claim needs to be quantified.”

Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said earlier on Monday that he’s concerned about the “extremely challenging” wildfire conditions being seen across the country.

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The fires continue to impact a number of provinces and territories, with Alberta still grappling with devastating fires across the region that have forced thousands to evacuate over recent weeks.

“We will do everything we can to support the people of Canada as they are being impacted by this extremely challenging wildfire season,” Blair told reporters on Monday. “It is frankly an all-hands-on-deck response to the challenges that people are facing.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia wildfire: ‘This fire is not under control,’ official says'
Nova Scotia wildfire: ‘This fire is not under control,’ official says

The past two years have seen multiple instances of severe natural disasters across the country, from the wildfires in Alberta and Tropical Storm Fiona to the derecho that hit eastern Ontario last summer and the drought in B.C. that followed a devastating atmospheric river in fall 2021.

In some, people who survived report struggling to get insurance to cover the damage — and in severe flooding, might not be eligible for coverage at all.

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With wildfires like those in Nova Scotia and Alberta, how much will be covered by a claim depends on the coverage purchased, but Haydock said she is unaware of any “loopholes” that could be used by insurance companies to avoid paying up.

She said that given the number of natural disaster emergencies that have emerged in Canada in recent years, insurance companies are now very prepared to handle an increase in demand, even though the wildfires this year have come slightly earlier than in the past.

Most insurance companies have “catastrophe teams” that they send to affected areas to help people file claims in person, according to Haydock.

“We are already hearing of insurance companies who are deploying their claims personnel to the Halifax area to assist their policyholders,” she said. “Your adjuster is working with you to help you get back to life.”

— with a file from Global News’ Sean Previl.

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