After close to 200 buildings burnt around Lake Okanagan, claims adjusters in Kelowna can expect to see claims range from personal and commercial across a swath of coverage types, an adjuster tells Canadian Underwriter.
“Kelowna has a diverse geography with its surrounding mountain slopes, and dense landscape. Because of the large volume of affected properties, we are seeing losses ranging from seasons cottages, trailers, and boats to significant high-value luxury homes,” said Anita Paulic, director of operations and catastrophe response at ClaimsPro.
“While there are many pockets of expanded suburban subdivisions, there are also many large-scale homes tucked away deep up in the hills. Each loss or claim file will have its own story and history and require careful attention while being assessed.”
Officials say the number of properties around Lake Okanagan destroyed or suffering significant wildfire damage has reached 189 after fires ravaged Kelowna and surrounding communities for more than two weeks and counting.
Lake Okanagan Resort, which consists of multiple structures, is among the commercial buildings burnt in the fire. An Okanagan children’s summer camp is also reported damaged, according to the Canadian Press.
Claims from the ongoing Kelowna fires are anticipated for temporary accommodations (additional living expenses), property losses and smoke damage claims, Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) previously told CU.
Officials in the region are beginning their wildfire response as many evacuees start to return home, although fire crews continue to fight out-of-control blazes.
Adjusters are beginning their response as well.
“Now that many are returning home to the unknown, we take an extremely tactile approach, understanding the devastation that comes with accepting the reality of property loss,” said Paulic. “We mobilize adjusters to be onsite as quickly as possible to personally answer any questions and to assist with accelerating the rebuilding process, or getting homes cleaned up and back to livable standards.”
Close to 30,000 Interior B.C. residents had to evacuate when the fires originally swept the province and knocked out power. Evacuation orders are still in effect for Central Okanagan, about 20 minutes north of Kelowna.
Areas of McDougall Creek, located in West Kelowna, remain restricted. B.C. Wildfire Service says McDougall Creek is experiencing a “wildfire of note” — meaning it is highly visible or posing a threat to public safety. The fire is 126 square kilometres and the cause is under investigation as of Aug 29.
Adjusters and first responders have compared the Kelowna fires to a blaze that hit the town nearly 20 years earlier.
In 2003, Kelowna experienced a series of wildfires that caused $200 million in insured damage.
“When comparing these recent wildfires to the 2003 Kelowna wildfires, it has been said they were similar in nature, and both considered high intensity and high severity,” said Paulic.
“In 2003, the Okanagan Mountain Park fire was across the lake from Peachland on the east side, which resulted in 239 homes burning in 25,000 hectares.
“This year, the McDougall Creek fire across the lake from Kelowna on the West side burned 181 properties in 12,000 hectares,” Paulic said Tuesday, based on the damaged structure count at the time.
Nationally, the 2023 wildfire season is expected to produce $700 million to $1.5 billion in insured damages for the industry, financial services company DBRS Morningstar predicted earlier this month.
A person travels in a boat past people walking on the boardwalk as smoke from the McDougall Creek wildfire blankets the area on Okanagan Lake, in Kelowna, B.C., Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck