Am I Covered For the Cost of Fire Fighting on My Farm or Ranch?

In 2013, a Southern Alberta family received a $25,000 bill from the fire department after a fire on their ranch. Although the bill was eventually retracted, rural homeowners should double-check their fire coverage to avoid this situation. Being liable for the cost of fighting fires is nothing new for Alberta farm owners. In fact, although most farm policies cover this type of loss, the amounts automatically covered are minimal.

You might be surprised by the fact that all fires attended by the fire department are the liability of the landowner. A fire started by lightning versus a fire started by your own negligence would be handled differently, but you are still liable. The Hixt Family of the Beiseker area called 911 when lightning struck their property but the fire department took an hour to respond. The family did not realize that the municipality of Rocky View has a cost recovery program in the event of a fire. Even though the $25,000 bill has been retracted, it is commonplace for rural municipalities to send a bill after responding to these situations. Usually, the bills are not as large as $25,000, but you must educate yourself to ensure you are not left unprotected with the potential to lose your most valuable asset.

How to avoid an unexpected fire liability

According to Alpine Insurance in Lethbridge, anyone with concerns regarding their coverage should read their insurance policy to determine the maximum fire coverage. An endorsement can be easily added to your farm policy without much additional cost. Keep in mind that if you start a fire on your property and it spreads to a neighbouring property, you will be liable. A professional insurance broker can tailor a policy specific to the unique needs of your farm or ranch.

Types of coverage available on most farm policies

  • Fire Department Charges – Covers charges made by counties and municipalities against landowners in the case of a fire.
  • Fire Fighting Expenses – Part of the liability portion of a policy that covers fire fighting expenses that a landowner may be legally responsible for even though the loss is not on their property. An example of this would be if a landowner is burning garbage and started a grass fire that spread to a neighbouring property.

All policies are not created equal

Every company has different policies, limits, and endorsement options. Therefore, it is critical to discuss with your insurance broker the best policy options for your individual situation. It is important to talk to an experienced and knowledgeable insurance professional who can help you make an educated decision. And it is wise not to select your insurance product based on price alone.

Here are some examples of various types of farm coverage offered by three different insurance companies:

  • SMI Insurance has automatic coverage of $1,000 for fire department charges but can increase the coverage to $2,000 under the farm enhancement endorsement. They can be increased beyond this limit for $1 per $100 of expenses required. Fire fighting expenses coverage for $10,000 automatically under the liability portion of the policy can be increased to $100,000 for an additional premium.
  • Wawanesa Insurance covers fire department charges of $3,000 automatically with an option to increase coverage in $1000 increments; the additional premium is $3 for every $1000 increased. Fire fighting expenses are not automatically included but a limit of up to $100,000 can be purchased for minimal cost.
  • Intact Insurance covers fire department charges of $5,000 automatically but can increase that coverage to $25,000 for an additional premium. Fire fighting expense coverage must be purchased. The limits that can be purchased starting at $25000 and can go as high as $500,000.

Review your policy and consult with an experienced insurance broker

The most important lesson the Hixt Family has learned from their experience and can pass on to other landowners is to review your insurance policy and consult with a reputable insurance broker. At Alpine Insurance, one of our knowledgeable professionals can help you protect your farm, ranch, or acreage by tailoring a policy to your individual needs. Whether you live near Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Canmore, or central Alberta, we have the province covered.


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