The US Forest Service recently revealed it spent about $200 million per week battling wildfires this past summer and fall.
It likely spent a good portion of that money in Washington. After all, aside from Alaska, which saw over 5 million acres of land burn this fire season, the Evergreen State was one of the worst hit by this year’s blazes. In fact, wildfires burned more than 900,000 acres of land across Washington by Sept. 3, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Those blazes started in July and continued through September thanks to hot and dry weather conditions.
As the season came to a close, firefighters contained the remainder of the state’s 1,000 or so wildfires enough to turn them over to local officials.
Unfortunately, by then the fires had killed three firefighters, destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings, and forced thousands of residents to evacuate.
Okanogan Complex Fire
Two of the biggest blazes that impacted Washington state this summer and fall were the Okanogan Complex fire and the Chelan Complex fire.
Experts believe lightning started the first of those fires, which started near the cities of Okanogan and Omak on Aug. 14.
A few noteworthy statistics tied to the Okanogan Complex wildfire:
- At its peak, it burned as much as 300,000 acres of land
- Other estimates put its size at over 400 square miles
- Regardless, it wound up the largest wildfire in Washington state history (bigger than 2014’s Carlton Complex fire)
- It destroyed 120 homes, prompted numerous evacuations, injured seven people, and killed three firefighters
- Approximately 1,250 firefighters – including 700 Washington National Guard troops -- battled the blaze
- Officials suggest the suppression effort cost more than $44.5 million
Do you live in an area that could see similar devastation? Make sure your car and home insurance will cover you if a wildfire ever threatens your property.
Chelan Complex Fire
The Chelan Complex fire also started on Aug. 14, although its cause remains unknown.
Although it was smaller and less damaging than the Okanogan Complex fire, it still produced plenty of devastation in and around the city of Chelan.
Specifically, this wildfire:
- Burned nearly 100,000 acres of land
- Destroyed dozens of homes
- Threatened hundreds of other residences and buildings
- Injured nine people
- Cost as much as $16 million to suppress
Also, almost 700 firefighters combatted the Chelan blazes at one point or another.
Car Insurance and Wildfires
Although it isn’t yet known how much the Chelan, Okanogan, and other Washington wildfires will cost the state’s car and homeowners, it’s likely the amount won’t be small.
After all, it can cost a lot to repair or replace cars, homes, or other belongings damaged by fire. And that’s especially true if you don’t have the right amount or kind of insurance.
For example, liability car insurance alone won’t cover loss tied to a fire. For that, you need comprehensive coverage.
One more reason it’s important to stay on top of your auto and home insurance: fires like the ones that swept through a number of western states this year may now be the rule instead of the exception.
That is Tom Jeffery’s view of the situation, at least. The senior hazard risk scientist for Irvine, California-based CoreLogic recently told Insurance Journal, “five years ago we could have said this is probably out of the ordinary,” but today such fires are the norm.
Home and Flood Insurance, Too
It’s also important to carefully consider your homeowners insurance coverage if you have a house and live in an area that’s at all prone to wildfires.
The good news here is that standard home policies protect against fire-related destruction. (If you want to know more about what they will and won’t cover, read our “Home Insurance Basics” article.)
What this kind of coverage won’t protect against is flood damage. It may seem strange to mention that in an article about fire, but areas affected by wildfires are at a higher risk for flooding.
This is because roots that help soak up rain and other water are lost when fire destroys trees and plants. Flash floods and debris flows capable of demolishing homes and businesses are far more likely as a result.
To learn more about flood insurance, read our article about it.