As most of you have seen, the fires in BC have been problematic again this year. The summer was dry and fires spread ferociously. In Saskatchewan, we had a few grass fires as well. They were not as severe, however they did cause a fair amount of natural damage and kept the fire departments busy.
These wildfires can be very hard to contain. One fire department is usually not enough and it takes a “village,” so to speak, to put these fires out or contain them. For every department that shows up, they will generally have both a call out fee and an hourly fee based on how long they were on the scene. In most urbanized centers, your taxes will include the costs of a fire call-out. However, in the rural areas or smaller towns, there may often be an invoice for these services that you are responsible for. This is something you should look into with your local RM or Municipal office.
In our local Saskatchewan departments, the average call-out fee is around $1200. The hourly rate is close to $1000 per hour. This means that if you had a house fire, shop fire, machinery fire or grass fire that you were responsible for, and one department spent 10 hours on the site putting out the fire, you could end up with an invoice of over $10,000. Now imagine the fire spreads to other locations and now 2 or 3 local department show up. This could end up being $20,000-$30,000. This seems far fetched, but we had 2 fires this year alone where the fire departments reported invoices of close to $20,000 and $40,000. The invoice usually gets sent to the land or property owner where the fire originated. So even though the fire did minimal damage on your property, if it spreads to other people’s property, you can still be on the hook for all the firefighting costs.
To protect yourself from these potential costs, you can add volunteer fire fighting coverage to your home/farm policy. Most RM administrators are recommending around $20,000 coverage for potential losses. Some insurance companies bundle this coverage with other packages to make them more flexible. For example, with My Mutual Insurance, you can purchase an “Agri-Shield” product which includes: Volunteer Fire Fighting, Debris Removal, Farm Building Contents – including Tack, and Tool Coverage. This package starts at a limit of $60,000, however, it can be increased. The reason that this is more flexible is that you can either use the full $60,000 for fire fighting if needed, or you break down the coverage as needed. For example, you have a shop fire and you need $10,000 for fire fighting, $25,000 for tools, $10,000 for debris removal and $10,000 for misc. farm contents. This coverage can be split up to reach those individual limits up to the total limit you have selected. Another potential scenario is a grass fire is starting on your land and you end up needing $40,000 to pay for fire fighting costs – this would all be covered under this package.
If you were to buy these coverages individually ($60,000 fire fighting, $60,000 tools, and $60,000 debris removal) this premium would end up being much more than the Agri-Shield product. Please give us a call if you would like to learn more about this product or would like to add these coverages to your policy.