Wildfires have devastated the south this fall, and when these blazes encroach upon developed areas, they can be some of the costliest of all fire losses. In fact, in 2015, three of the top 10 costliest large-loss fires were due to wildfires. Donan’s certified fire investigators are among the first on the ground in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Here’s what you need to know about our wildfire response.
1: Due to rescue operations and accessibility challenges to first responders in the area, initially, there were delays to claims professionals and forensic investigators gaining access to properties, as is generally the case in catastrophe zones. Residents of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding areas have now been allowed back into their homes and businesses, allowing claims professionals and their forensic partners to begin origin and cause investigations and damage assessments.
2: Property damages following a wildfire can vary widely, from total destruction to very little fire damage. Just as in a large storm, it is not always clear why there is a house which sustained no visible damage in the middle of four houses with severe damages. But recent research on wildfires is useful in understanding their impact: “Researchers are discovering that embers blown by the wind during wildfires cause most of the fires that burn homes. Also, homes that are less than 15 feet apart are more likely to burn in clusters. In such cases, fire is often spread by combustible fences and decks connected to houses, a study by the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) found (http://www.iii.org/issue-update/wildfires).” According to the Insurance Information Institute (iii.org), the risk of wildfires will likely grow “as temperatures rise, lengthening the fire season, and more people move into steep forested areas once largely uninhabited.”
3: There is concern for related damages following wildfires. In Tennessee, these may include soot damage to properties, which can often be remediated by restoration companies but may require complete removal of contents and structural components, as well as the potential for additional damages due to the wide-scale loss of power. As temperatures drop, properties without power may run the risk of pipes freezing and bursting, leading to further water damages.
4: There is potential for fraudulent claims following wildfires. Donan’s certified fire investigators remain vigilant for indicators of fraud such as timeline discrepancies and fire pattern mismatch. There is also potential for fires caused by downed power lines (among other things) rather than the actual wildfire. Our experts rule out all potential alternative fire causes to be sure damages were caused by the wildfire.
5: Donan has invested tremendous time and resources to ensure we are an exceptional partner to our clients in the wake of catastrophes. Our certified fire investigators and forensic engineers are ready to respond in Tennessee and geared up to handle increased claim volumes. Please call us at 800-482-5611 or submit a project through our Customer Portal at donan.com/portal.
Click here to find out more about Donan’s Fire Investigation Division.