Dealing with Wildfires

Having experienced the wildfires in 2016, we understand the overwhelming challenges that come with such natural disasters. In light of the ongoing wildfires, here are some crucial details to help those currently dealing with wildfires and how a Realtor can provide support during these trying times.

Start Your Claim

If you get evacuated, and you do not know the status of your home, you may not know it for a week or, like in Fort McMurray, over 3 weeks. There is more coverage than just your home. Your insurance may cover additional hotel, food, and evacuation expenses. Important! Keep ALL receipts so you can claim all expenses incurred. Receipts can also get smeared and lost easily. If you can, take a photo with your smartphone, ensuring it is clearly legible.

Expect delays

The insurance companies in these wildfire scenarios will have an influx of claims, so the sooner, the better, and you will be further in the cue to be assisted.

Request and Review your insurance policy

Ask for a complete copy of your insurance policy from your insurance provider and read it in full so you understand what you are entitled to in your time of need. There will be details about what your policy covers, and the better understanding you have about the policy, the more you will understand what you will be covered for:

  • Displacement costs (Don’t forget to keep all your receipts!)
  • How much fire damage and total Loss coverage
  • Remediation of your home from smoke damage
  • Loss of revenue if you run a business in your home or have a loss of income from a tenant. 

Look for the words GUARANTEED REPLACEMENT COST. This will put you at ease knowing that if your home is a total loss and no matter how significant the damage is, they will have to bring your home back to what it was, no matter your coverage. This is the BEST line to find in your policy and confirm with your adjuster.

Damage to your house that is not a total loss

Even if your home is not a total loss, you may have to deal with:

  • Smoke damage
  • Spoiled food from no power
  • Your home being waterbombed
  • Heat damage from proximity to fire

Your Next Step

Your adjuster will meet with you at your home to go through the details, and help determine your best remediation path. Go through your home in as much detail as possible.

Don’t overlook these items:

  • Attic Insulation: This can be compromised due to toxic ash and how it is made to have ventilation to the exterior of your home. Get it tested, and if there is any evidence it is compromised, most insurance policies will replace your insulation.
  • Roof: Ash and embers landing on your roof can compromise it. Have your roof inspected to ensure there has been no damage. 
  • Heat Damage: This can affect a home in more than one way. Have your sidings and windows inspected. Heat can compromise window seals, and sidings may melt; an inspection of the exterior of your home is critical.
  • Smoke Damage: This will be something that can be assessed even if you were not close to the fire and the exterior of your home is okay. If your A/C was on, the primary vent was running, or the furnace was on, you could be dealing with smoke damage inside your home. Most restoration companies have a process to determine the best remedy for smoke damage, from air scrubbers to comprehensive cleaning. Ask what they will be doing and ensure you are completely satisfied before moving back in. If you have further concerns, you can ask for air quality tests.
  • Food Spoilage: if you are away for an extended period and your home is without power, you may have to throw out your fridges and freezers. Go over your coverage and if you need to account for anything through your adjuster. 

Take your time with your adjuster. Some adjusters want everything signed off as soon as possible, and with most policies, you have a year to close your claim. If something doesn't feel right, don't sign off until you are 100% sure there will be no further cause for concern.

If you are not progressing with your adjuster or feel they are not supporting you, ask to be reassigned to an alternative. Give grace in this decision, though your emotions will be heightened. Remember, you pay for insurance for times like these and are entitled to everything your insurance coverage offers you in your time of need to get your life back to what it was.

Document and file everything

Keep all reports so that when you sell your home, the buyer will feel at ease that everything was addressed with your claim.  

If your home is a total loss...

In 2016’s Fort McMurray wildfires, many builders came out of the woodwork, some good and some not so good. your real estate professional can help you in this situation:

  • We can help make builder suggestions and point you to reputable companies to investigate. However, it is still best to remember to do your due diligence.
  • We will provide you with an MLS sheet of your home to get details and start the rebuild process.
  • We will help pull your city file to see what blueprints and details they have about your home.

Here are some other builder tips

  • Review Public Registry of Builder and Property Information ( to find out how many homes the builder has built.
  • Interviewing Builders
    1. a. Ask for references, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
    2. b. Ensure that Alberta New Home Warranty backs your builder (
    3. c. Talk to your adjuster: Your adjuster may give you builder suggestions. You have the right to a builder of your choice if they are within the value of the recommended builders.
    4. d. Your goal is to pick a good and competent builder who will build you a good quality home. Ask me any questions you may have.
  • When reviewing the details of your rebuild, put EVERYTHING in writing and get it signed off to protect yourself throughout the building process.

a. All upgrades, improvements, layout changes, landscaping/fending, foundation, driveway, right down to the underlay and types of windows and doors.
b. Identify who is paying for appliances, costs for window treatments, and anything else that might need clarifying.
c. Think of important considerations. Will your fridge have a water source? Do you need a special EV charger?

  • Get a legal review: Once you have your home agreement details worked out, get a legal review. Review the entire agreement with your lawyer and ensure you have all the legal terms to protect your best interests with your builder contract.

Consider your options

You may want to weigh out the option of rebuild vs cash payout. If the cost of building is too high and you can buy something more affordable and use the payout to get into something that better suits your needs, then do what makes the most financial sense. Go over all the number and get my opinion on your options once you have the details. I am here to give you an idea of the value of your land during this process as well.

And Remember: Document and File Everything

Having all these documents will be useful when you are in the process of selling your home in the future.

Take care of yourself and your family

Your mental health is so important. Be true to yourself and get counselling or support if you are struggling. Many people experience major depression or Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD).

Your REALTOR will be there during this time of need to help you with builder recommendations, inspector recommendations, MLS information, assistance with redesign tips if you are improving your home, raw land values and more.

In the wake of wildfires, a knowledgeable and compassionate Realtor can be a valuable resource. Whether it's understanding insurance claims, finding temporary housing, or navigating the complexities of selling or buying a home post-disaster, having an experienced professional by your side can make all the difference.


Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo

SOS Crisis Line
Some Other Solutions
24 hour confidential crisis support.

Walk-in Counselling Services
10217 Queen Street
Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 9:15 p.m.
No appointment required
For more information call: 780-743-7187

Mental Health Services
3rd floor, Northern Lights Regional Health Centre, 7 Hospital Street
Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
For more information or to book an appointment: 780-791-6194

Boreal Therapy Collective
Counselling Services & Mindfulness for Wellbeing Program & Group Support
Phone: 780-838-5070 or 780-791-1757
Legacy Counselling Centre
Provides interdisciplinary mental health services.
160 Dickens Dr., Fort McMurray
Phone: (587) 536-6619



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