For many years, it has been called “Fire Insurance” for a reason. Up until recently, Fire was the number one cause of insurance losses in Saskatchewan and Canada. More recently, water losses have surpassed this peril, however, it is still one of the primary reasons for loss.
Whether it is your home, business, vehicle, equipment, hay/feed, machinery, fire can occur and directly impact almost everything. Concrete, steel, wood, asphalt, styrofoam, and almost every other material (if hot enough), can be destroyed by fire.Too often we hear about someone removing insurance off of a structure built out of steel or concrete with the idea that it can’t burn. However, as we have seen time and time again, if it gets hot enough, or there is an accelerant nearby, everything and anything can be severely damaged.
What are the most common losses when it comes to fire?
- This is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, causing over 20% of home fires, according to the Canadian Firefighter data of 2012. It is also the leading cause of loss in restaurants.
- Grease vapour produced from cooking can accumulate throughout the kitchen and cause a high exposure for fire. Grills and deep fryers can contribute to the spread of fire and how easily it can engulf a restaurant kitchen. This is why insurance companies require an automatic fire extinguishing system and regular maintenance on the extinguishers and ventilation systems.
- Heating equipment fires account for 10-15% of all home fires, following cooking losses.
- The leading factor contributing to home fires was failure to clean and maintain the unit and chimney (primarily solid-fueled heating equipment, aka. Woodstove, wood fireplace, outdoor wood boiler).
- A main contributor to ignition of these home fires, is having equipment too close to combustible materials, such as furniture, clothing, mattress or bedding.
- Arson / Intentional Fires
- These are important to mention as your insurance can be handled very different in this situation. If they prove that you were intentionally set fire to your property, they can deny your insurance coverage. If you were vandalised and you had no connection to the arson, your insurance would cover the loss. The fire inspector will do a thorough investigation to see the cause of the fire and if he sees that there were accelerants used or other signs that may point to arson, this will open up a serious investigation into why.
- This happens in many outdated structures. Sometimes the wiring or breaker boxes are old and the connections have started to wear and have become faulty. This can cause arching issues.
- Sometimes people use high wattage appliances in outlets that don’t support that wattage.
- Plugging in too many appliances into one extension cord. This happens frequently, especially around the Christmas holidays as people will plug in lights and christmas trees into one extension cord. If the cord is worn or tattered, these should be replaced as well.
- Using older appliances. These use more power and can sometimes overheat and start a fire.
- Space Heaters – Make sure these units are kept away from flammable material and objects. If these are your primary heat source for your home or building, unless they are hard-wired into your building, most insurance companies will not allow them as a primary heating source.
- Child fire-play
- Combine / Baler Fires – Commonly due to heat from dry straw gathering near hot bearings, belts or wiring.
How can I help prevent these major types of losses?
Not all of these items are easy to prevent. If you are subject to an act of vandalism such as an arson fire, there is little you can do to anticipate such an incident.
Here are some things you CAN DO, to help prevent a fire in your home.
- While cooking, make sure you always stay in the kitchen when frying on the stovetop. If you see wisps of smoke or the oil smells, immediately turn off the burner and carefully remove the pan from the burner. Smoke is a dangerous sign that the oil is too hot.
- Always cook with a lid beside your pan. If you have a fire, slide the lid over the pan and turn off the burner. This will help smother the fire. Do not remove the cover because the fire could start again. Let the pan cool for a long time. NEVER THROW WATER ON THE FIRE.
- For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.
- If the fire has become uncontrollable, GET OUT and call 9-1-1. Close the door behind you to help contain the fire.
- Proper cleaning and maintenance of your heating system will prevent most potential fires. Having your chimney swept, your furnace filters changed frequently and having an inspection from a licensed heating contractor is a great way to keep your heating systems in good working condition.
- Updating your electrical is a good idea if you have an older home or building. Some homes have knob and tube wiring (which is very dangerous) and others have aluminum wiring in them, and even though this is still allowable by code, aluminum wiring is softer and is easier to damage or “nick” which can cause hot spots in the conductor causing overheating and a potential fire risk.
- Updating your breaker panel. Over time, connections can become loose and fail. So it is important to check your panel and your wiring to make sure things are connected correctly.
- Machinery Fire – Keep your equipment clean (as clean as you can). By frequently blowing out the machine with an air compressor and checking your equipment for any hot spots, this could help prevent a future fire on your machinery as you harvest this year.
- Other helpful tips
- Fire extinguishers – have them in your home and in your business. Placed or hung up in an easy area to access.
- Make sure you keep combustibles or flammable materials are kept at a safe distance away from any hot appliances or open flames.
- Have an exit plan. If you do have a fire (especially at night), make sure you and your family understand what the protocol is when exiting the house. Have the exits well lit in your place of business so people know how they can exit your business.
These aren’t the only ways a fire can get started. Grassfires, wildfires, forest fires are some well known causes, especially in BC or California. We have seen them close by in northern Saskatchewan & Alberta (Fort McMurray, Slave Lake). This is why insurance is important. No matter how much you do to prevent a loss, you can still be exposed by elements outside your control. Please contact us if you want to know more or would like some information on fire insurance. Take care!