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Western states heat wave emphasizes need to prevent and prepare for wildfires

CHICAGO, July 3, 2013--As Americans prepare to mark the Fourth of July, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America encourages residents to enjoy the holiday, but be safe and smart when it comes to the use of fireworks.  A new report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) documents that in 2011 alone 17,800 fires were started by fireworks.  That is an increase from the 15,500 fires started on Fourth of July in 2010.

“Given the serious heat wave in western states and in the wake of deadly and damaging fires in Arizona and Colorado, fire safety must remain a high priority,” said Christopher Hackett, director of personal lines for PCI.  “It is vital that people follow state laws and take extra precautions to avoid causing preventable fires.”

The NFPA reports 2011 Fourth of July fireworks caused 1,200 structure fires, resulting in 8 deaths, 40 injuries and $32 million in direct property damage.  NFPA says on Independence Day in a typical year, far more U.S. fires are reported than on any other day, and fireworks account for two out of five of those fires, more than any other cause of fires.

“Extreme weather and dry conditions have made for a very serious fire season this year.  Actions have consequences so we all need to find safe ways to enjoy the holiday without letting fireworks get out of control,” says Hackett.  “Let the Fourth be a reminder to not only prevent wildfires but also prepare our families financially and physically.  Follow some simple steps to mitigate risks and fortify your financial defenses by updating your insurance policy.”

Wildfire Financial Preparedness Tips:

  • Review Your Policy Regularly – Review your property insurance policy with your insurance company or agent. If you have recently remodeled or built a new addition onto your property, be sure to increase the amount of protection to cover the changes to the property. If your home is paid off, be sure to maintain coverage.
  • Keep an Inventory − To speed claims processing, keep an inventory of your possessions and photograph or videotape them for documentation purposes. After a fire, list the items that were destroyed or damaged along with a brief description that includes receipts, appraisals, and the age, current value, make, model and serial number of items.
  • Understand Your Policy - Homeowners need to understand the type of policy they have. There are two kinds of policies:  A replacement cost policy will generally repair or replace covered personal property damaged by an insured peril.  While an actual cash value policy only provides reimbursement for the depreciated value of covered personal property.  Coverage for earthquake damage is typically available as an optional endorsement to your homeowners insurance policy. California residents can purchase earthquake coverage from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Physical Preparedness Tips – For more physical preparedness tips check out www.Readyforwildfire.org

  • Create Defensive Space − For those living in high fire hazard areas, the best protection is defensive space. Clear the land around dwellings of all vegetation. Experts recommend that the cleared area extend at least 30 to 100 feet from the dwelling in all directions.
  • Remove dead leaves and debris from roof or rain gutters.
  • Remove wood piles or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows.
  • Trim trees so branches are a minimum of 10 feet from other threes.  Embers are a major cause of spreading fires.
  • Remove vegetation and items that can catch fire under decks.

Fire Prevention Tips

  • Don’t toss burning cigarettes out into dry brush areas.
  • Don’t light fireworks near dry brush; keep buckets of water nearby.
  • Be sure campfires are completely put out and doused with water and cannot relight.
  • Be careful with controlled burns, severe weather can cause a normal burn to become out of control.
  • Be cautious with mowing equipment on dry brush – one spark can ignite a wildfire.

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