Wildfire Smoke Damage: What to Know

Wildfire Smoke Damage

So far in 2022 wildfires have burned millions of acres in the United States. Lightening caused many of these fires, however, people caused even more. Regardless of how these fires start, their numbers increase year by year. This impacts businesses and residences, but insurance policies may cover wildfire smoke damage to your property.

At Risk of Smoke Damage

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the states of California, Texas, and Colorado lead the nation with the most properties at risk from wildfires. Arizona, Idaho, and Washington were close behind. While Montana made the list at number nine for the top ten states at high risk, they were number one for the percentage of properties at risk.

Wildfire Smoke Damage Insurance Claims

No matter which state you live in, if wildlife smoke damage affects your home or business, you need to take action. Your homeowner’s insurance should cover out-of-pocket expenses in addition to the cost of repairs. Therefore, it’s important to document any destruction caused by soot, ash, and smoke. Depending on the specific policy, you may have coverage for the dwelling, personal property inside it, as well as coverage for landscaping. If the fire or smoke damage forces you to find other living arrangements, some policies help cover that expense as well.

What to Do After Wildfire Smoke Damage

If your property suffered from wildfire smoke damage, take the following steps when filing insurance claims. 

Safety First

After wildfire smoke damage to a building, make sure it is safe to return. When you do return, use portable air purifiers with a HEPA filter to remove contaminants from the air. 

Document Everything

The first step is to document the damage. When it is safe to do so, inspect the building and take pictures of furniture, rugs, carpeting, and drapes. Photograph walls and ceilings as well as other personal items damaged by wildfire smoke.

Test & Inspect

To prove wildfire smoke caused damage to your home, test with a wildfire smoke test kit. These DIY screening kits give you results fast. You collect them yourself then mail them to the environmental diagnostics laboratory. Get a detailed report within 3-5 days of what particles are in the smoke and at what levels. The report also compares these findings to what is considered a normal level.

Work with Your Insurance Agent

Your insurance agent needs estimates and inspections to pay out on wildfire smoke damage claims. Providing them with your photos and test results streamlines the process. Your agent may suggest cleaning a damaged item instead of replacing it. If you insist on getting the fair replacement value, be prepared to prove the damage.

Potential Health Risks

The loss of property from wildfires is devastating. It’s about more than the dollar value of furniture, clothing, and valuables, it’s about the loss of personal mementos. That said, wildfire smoke damage affects health as well. Wildfire smoke carries with it burnt organic matters and gasses too. These particles travel for thousands of miles and can enter the lungs of people who live in other states or regions of the country. For that reason, a smoke particulate kit helps identify particulates in smoke. 

Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation

If you’ve been directly exposed to smoke, report any symptoms to your doctors. Symptoms of smoke inhalation include:

  • Coughing
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Stinging eyes
  • Scratchy throat
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath 

Asthma and Allergies Triggers

Wildfire smoke damages property and poses a health risk too. Even short-term exposure to woodburning smoke can trigger asthma attacks. Exposure to the fine particles found in smoke can aggravate bronchitis and lung disease, cause heart attacks and lead to abnormal heartbeats. Studies also show that it affects the immune and cardiovascular systems of children. The elderly and pregnant women remain at high risk from smoke inhalation.

Airborne Pathogens

Other particulates in wildfire smoke include airborne pathogens. Fungi, torn from the soil during a fire, rises along with hot air where it’s inhaled by firefighters. It also travels for miles around the fire putting people at risk. Firefighters call this condition Valley Fever and it causes shortness of breath but also fever and even meningitis and pneumonia. 

Learn More About Wildfire Smoke Damage

To learn more about how to use a smoke test kit as a part of your insurance claim, call WTI | Pure Air Control Services at 1-800-422-7873 or visit our contact page.