Incentives urged to boost uptake of programs aimed at mitigating property damageWhen Alison MacLean moved to the Interior of B.C. two years ago she was looking for a more affordable home. But she didn’t bank on her fire insurance rates doubling on her little piece of Kamloops paradise.
When the documentary-maker went to renew her insurance policy in late summer, she found the price had more than doubled, going from $1,100 on her last policy to quoted rates that reached as high as $2,300.MacLean, 64, is one of a growing number of Canadians facing volatile home insurance rates driven by this year’s wildfire season.
The spiking rates, similar to what has been happening in American fire zones, have renewed a focus on steps that people can take to fireproof their properties. Forestry expert Lori Daniels says those steps are more likely to happen if there were incentives offered by the insurance industry and government.
“These are no longer ‘once in a lifetime’ events in fire-prone environments,” said Daniels, a forest and conservation sciences professor at the University of British Columbia.2023 has been the most destructive wildfire season in Canadian history, with fires forcing evacuations in communities across the country and more than 15 million hectares of land going up in smoke.
The fires in B.C.’s Okanagan and Shuswap areas, which started in mid-August and raged for almost six weeks, caused more than $720 million in damage, according to figures released this week by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).That puts those wildfires among the top 10 insurance payouts for disasters across Canada, a list that is led by the $4.3 billion paid out for the 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta.
According to Craig Stewart, IBC’s vice-president of climate change and federal issues, fire insurance rates are currently volatile. Insurers are assessing premiums for vulnerable communities based on existing fire protection and forest management practices.
“It’s very much a moving target right now given the extraordinary fire season that we’ve had,” Stewart said.Daniels said she is concerned that Canada will begin to mirror the U.S. where fire insurance rates have exploded in parts of Colorado and California.