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Does homeowners insurance cover fire damage?

This fall, wildfires in the Wenatchee National Forest to the northeast of Kings County, Washington, caused thousands of acres to burn and threatened hundreds of homes. Unfortunately, some of these succumbed to the blaze, leading to lots of clean-up and rebuilding for homeowners.

Some homeowners may think they must go it alone with covering costs of fire damage. However, most homeowners’ insurance policies cover fire and smoke damage and even total destruction from fires. Filing a claim can be complicated, so it is important that homeowners understand how to make the claims process go as smoothly as possible.

Fire damage and homeowners’ insurance

After a fire, homes may be damaged from both the flames and smoke of the blaze. Walls, windows and carpets may need to be washed or replaced and walls may need to be repainted. Even upholstered furniture may need to be washed or repaired. Sadly, sometimes a fire entirely consumes a home, in which case homeowners must not only rebuild, but also replace their lost belongings.

Fortunately, most homeowners’ insurance policies cover damage and destruction caused by fires and smoke, including wildfires like the one in Washington this fall. Policies may even cover personal items lost in the blaze as well as the cost of temporary housing while a home is being repaired. However, limits on coverage and deductibles vary widely from policy to policy, so homeowners should always read and understand their policies before a disaster strikes.

Specific examples of what homeowners’ insurance may cover in the event of a loss from fire or smoke include the costs of a total loss of the home, repairs to the damaged structure and interior (including those performed by a restoration or mitigation company) and lost personal possessions such as furniture, clothing and appliances.

Tips for filing a fire damage insurance claim

Like other homeowners’ insurance claims, filing a claim for fire damage or destruction can be complicated. Homeowners must take extra care to document all damages, including damage done to personal belongings and the structure or interior of the home. Insurance companies will need photos or videos of the damage, a written description of the damage, the date of loss, type of loss, general condition of the home, location, any injuries and the police report if applicable.

The insurance company will also ask if any temporary repairs were needed to secure the property, like boarding up a broken window. If temporary repairs must be made, keep all receipts and document the original damage. Policies differ on whether or not they cover temporary repairs.

In general, homeowners should not throw out any damaged property until an insurance adjustor has been to the home to assess the damage and draft his or her report. Adjustors need to see the damage in as much of its original state as possible to process the claim efficiently and accurately.

Lastly, homeowners should keep all correspondence between them and their insurance companies in case there is a dispute later in the claims process. Homeowners should also keep any and all bills and receipts associated with the damage.

Fire damage can affect all or part of a property. Fortunately, homeowners’ insurance policies often cover damage from fire and smoke, including wildfires. If you or a loved one has been injured in a fire or need help getting insurance to cover your claim, contact an experienced Washington attorney.