Rock Creek fire victims not likely to get provincial disaster assistance

Residents of the homes in Rock Creek, B.C. that were destroyed by a raging wildfire that's been burning out of control since Thursday are unlikely to receive disaster assistance from the provincial government.

Forestry minister says disaster funds are legislated under specific circumstances

The Rock Creek fire has destroyed 30 homes since it began on Thursday. (Kirk Williams/CBC)

Residents of homes in Rock Creek, B.C. that were destroyed by a raging wildfire that's been burning out of control since Thursday are unlikely to receive disaster assistance from the provincial government.

That's because there are specific, legislated rules that govern who can access the province's disaster financial assistance, said Forests Minister Steve Thomson.

"Fire is an insurable risk, so it's not directly eligible under the program," he said.

In other words, because homeowners and renters can get personal insurance to cover fire damage, the province is highly unlikely to cover the losses.

So far, at least 30 homes have been destroyed.

How fire insurance works

Aaron Sutherland, manager of government relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada — an organization that represents Canadian home, auto and business insurers — says fires are usually covered under basic home and tenant insurance.

So unlike earthquake insurance, which is typically added on to a home insurance package, fires are automatically covered.

"Typically it will cover your reconstruction costs for your home, your contents as well," said Sutherland.

"It's also important to know that most home and tenant policies will cover reasonable living expenses while people are facing a mandatory evacuation order."

That usually includes items such as food, shelter and other essentials. 

Thomson said the insurance industry is keeping a close eye on the number of homes affected by wildfires each year. 

"The unfortunate reality is that with our changing climate that could become all-too-real event for us going forward," he said.

"Certainly no one instance is going to impact premiums, but the trend certainly would be worrying."

Other provincial support may be available

Thomson said although the Rock Creek fire victims may not be eligible for the disaster financial assistance fund, there may be other avenues for them.

"We'll be looking at a range of supports and programs that may be available and coordinating those across ministries and across government," he said.

Thomson said the minister responsible for emergency management would be visiting the region on Tuesday.

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