Fort McMurray region's mayor asks insurance companies to extend wildfire claim deadlines

As the deadline to settle Fort McMurray wildfire insurance claims looms, the city’s mayor is appealing to insurance companies to offer a one-year extension.

Mayor Don Scott wants the province to compel insurance companies to extend claims deadlines

Mayor Don Scott said Wednesday he presented his concerns about the insurance deadline to the province. (David Thurton/ CBC)

As the deadline to settle Fort McMurray wildfire insurance claims looms, the city's mayor has appealed to companies to offer one-year extensions.

Many insurance policies include a two-year window within which claims must be settled. Outside of that window, policy holders cannot take their insurers to court.

With the two-year anniversary of the May 2 wildfire coming up, Mayor Don Scott said Wednesday the companies should extend the window to settle claims. 

Scott said he presented his concerns to Premier Rachel Notley, Finance Minister Joe Ceci and to Nelam Jetha, the superintendent of insurance.

"What I would like to see is the insurance industry come forward as a united front and say we are going to voluntarily extend the deadline," Scott said.

He said he's waiting for a response.

Scott said he hopes insurance companies understand that some wildfire victims weren't able to begin rebuilding their homes until November 2016, almost six months after the wildfire.

That's because some homes and neighbourhoods were considered unsafe and off limits until debris had been cleared away.

Scott said insurance claims are an arduous process and some residents did not have the wherewithal to complete all the paperwork in time.

The mayor advised residents to first ask their insurance companies for extensions and to get something in writing.

A lawyer who owns a firm in Fort McMurray, Scott said residents should also see a lawyer to better understand their rights as policyholders.

The Fort McMuray wildfire caused $3.56 billion in damage, making it the costliest insured disaster in Canadian history, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca

About the Author

David Thurton

David Thurton is CBC's mobile journalist in Fort McMurray. He's worked for CBC in the Maritimes & in Canada's Arctic. Email: david.thurton@cbc.ca