Forest fires causing insurance woes

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer
ntrivuncic@fortfrances.com

Forest fires have been spreading across the region and the drier climate has not been helpful in controlling them. While there are many side effects of forest fires, one is that they are causing delays in homeowners getting insurance on their homes or property.

John Homer, owner of Causeway Insurance in Fort Frances, said it is tough for those looking for insurance in affected areas as almost all insurance contracts cannot knowingly bind anything that is within a 50 km radius from a forest fire.

Homer said finding insurance has mainly affected those in rural areas and tourist resorts.

Not only can they not insure homes within a certain kilometer radius of a fire, they also cannot make any policy change which includes adding anything to a policy, Homer said.

While not being able to dole out insurance or change policies is frustrating for property owners, Homer adds that it is also a hindrance to them and other brokers as it prevents them from bringing in more business. Homer said they are fielding around five to 10 phone calls a week concerning the forest fires.

“At times we have to tell [customers] you have to wait. Earlier in the summer there were probably about five or six that we couldn’t increase the limits,” Homer said.

Homer adds they have not had many issues with insurance in Fort Frances as there are no forest fires in the surrounding area but that issues arise the further out of town you are and the closer you are to the fires.

Homer said he actively looks at the forest fire map to inform his staff where they cannot insure people.

“It’s tough because you can’t blame the insurance company. They’re not going to want to take on a new risk and insure something for $400,000 on the event that it’s going to burn down three weeks later or a month later,” Homer said.

By Monday afternoon, there were no new fires confirmed in the northwest region.

As of Monday, there were 82 active fires in the northwest region. Ten fires were not under control, four fires were being held, nine fires were under control and 59 fires were being monitored.

The fire hazard is mainly low to moderate, with areas of high hazard in the districts of Thunder Bay and Nipigon.

The unfortunate reality is that homeowners are at the mercy of nature, Homer said, adding that forest fires are not the only thing effecting insurance rates.

“Home insurance has paid out way more in claims than they typically do not even from the fires but because everybody’s got their chargers at home,” Homer said. “That’s also caused property insurance prices to skyrocket. Then when you couple it with this kind of weather we’re getting, it’s bad.”

As cooler weather is on the horizon and the flames of forest fires begin to cool, Homer said insurance will be easier to obtain. But for now, it is a waiting game.