It has been a devastating summer of wildfires for western Canada. Our neighbour of B.C, where many Albertans love to spend their vacation time at their cabins and recreational properties, has been particularly hard hit. The picturesque little town of Lytton was completely wiped out by wildfire, and the beleaguered province has responded to 1,231 blazes since April 1. As reported this week, there are 38 wildfires of note happening in B.C. right now, meaning they have the potential to cause serious damage, and an approximate 215 others are also burning.
Most of the smoke we are seeing in Alberta is from B.C. at the moment, but we have our own sources, including two wildfires located north of Banff that have been classified as “out of control.” The smoke from those, plus dozens more, is adding to the near-continuous haze in Calgary, as is another huge blaze in northern Saskatchewan, where approximately 166 wildfires continue to burn.
There is little moisture in the forecast, so the predictions are that the wildfires will continue. Most Albertans are doing their best to avoid the fires and staying home in an attempt to keep the highways as clear and safe as possible. But, the truth is that summer is a busy time on both provincial and national highways as a rule. If you are travelling, you can view the current wildfire situation in B.C at all times here, in Alberta here, and in Saskatchewan here. Updates on highways closures can be found at the provincial traffic websites for Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan.
Tips for driving through wildfire
People who have been moving around the country have been caught up in detours, stopped at road closures, and have driven through some very scary situations. If you find yourself driving through wildfire, the first thing to do is stay calm.
- The most common sense approach to driving through wildfire is to drive defensively, slow down, and be aware of your surroundings.
- Keep your windows rolled up and turn on the air circulation feature to keep smoke out of your vehicle.
- Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you, even if you are tempted to hurry. Do not tailgate. Any kind of crash could make rescue work much more difficult.
- Always give emergency workers the right of way and slow down fully to posted speed limits when workers are around.
- Turn on your headlights to allow others to see you better. If it is extremely smoky, using your low beams (or fog lights) may be advisable.
- Watch for wildlife. During a wildfire, animals are more likely to head to populated areas to escape the heat and smoke.
- Do not throw anything out of your vehicle. It should go without saying, but not only is littering adding to the fuel for wildfire, it’s illegal and punishable by fines ranging from $250 to $1,000. If you are caught throwing something like a lit cigarette butt out your window and it causes a fire, criminal charges are likely to apply.
- Pack enough food and water for a long trip, check your fluids, and be sure to gas up before leaving. Ensure your vehicle emergency kit is fully stocked and plan for the trip to take longer than usual.
- If you ever feel unsafe, pull over when it’s safe to do so and contact authorities.
Wildfire and your insurance coverage
Just about every home and auto insurance policy provides coverage for fire. However, if your area is under a current wildfire alert or evacuation alert, it may be difficult to renew or purchase new insurance, as some B.C. residents found out recently. The closing date of sale for home purchases has been delayed for some who are within 25 to 50 kilometres of a fire.
When it comes to mandatory evacuation orders, most homeowner and tenant insurance policies will cover the costs of temporary housing, such as a hotel or a long-term stay, up to a certain amount and/or for a specific period of time.
Rural property owners should also check their policies to make sure that firefighting insurance is included. In certain counties in Alberta, property owners are expected to pay at least part of the cost of firefighting services should they be required.
Why brokers are better
Insurance brokers like us at Lane’s specialize in finding policies for the difficult to insure. We work for you, not the insurance companies, and can compare and contrast numerous policies provided by Canada’s top companies to find you excellent coverage at great rates. When searching for your policy, we can help you determine the adequate amount of coverage for your property and your belongings, and can ensure your policy provides for living expenses while necessary repairs are being carried out to your home after a disaster. Our experienced account managers are there to provide the personalized support you need. You can rely on your broker for the professional service necessary to help you make a smart, educated decision. Contact us at our Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Alberta offices.