Police & Fire

Summit County homeowners face insurance cancellation due to rising wildfire risks

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — With the warmer months of the year approaching, now is a good time those who have homes in Summit County to check up on their homeowners’ insurance. During the last two years, residents have posted on their Nextdoor profiles of being dropped by their homeowners’ insurance companies citing wildfire liability. The neighborhoods included in these reports reach from Kamas and Heber through Park Meadows to Promontory and Silver Creek.

Hardening homes against wildfires

According to Mike Quinones, the Firewise Coordinator for Summit Park, current recommendations lean towards residents hardening their homes against wildfires. Studies have shown that embers are one of the main reasons some homes burn down while others resist destruction.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends homeowners take the following steps within 0 to 5 feet of their homes.

  • Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.
  • Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.
  • Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8 inch metal mesh screening.
  • Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8 inch metal mesh screening to reduce embers.
  • Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.
  • Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Take advantage of Park City Fire Department’s free chipping project

Residents in the Park City area can take part in the Park City Fire Department’s chipping project each year to reduce flammable material around their home. Information on this can be found on their website.

Firewise communities in Summit and Wasatch Counties and available discounts

The NFPA runs the Firewise USA program and Summit Park was one of seven areas nationwide selected to be one of the Firewise Sites of Excellence in 2019.

The Firewise program currently has nine sites listed in Summit and Wasatch Counties. The Park City area includes: Summit Park, Stagecoach Estates Lot Owners Association, Pinebrook, Promontory, Sun Peak Master HOA, and Park City Municipal Corporation. Kamas locations include Alpine Acres and Diamond Hills. The Peoa site is at Echo Creek Ranches.

At least one insurance company, USAA, offers discounts on homeowners’ insurance for those that live in a Firewise community. But, it’s important to check in homeowners’ insurance policies if the house is covered for wildfires. Most homes are included, but some insurance companies have stopped covering fire damage due to wildfires, so a separate insurance policy would be required.

Possible upcoming changes to homeowners’ insurance

Insurance companies overall are in discussions with state officials to consider a requirement for separate wildfire insurance policies however, this is not likely to happen this year. Morgan Newitt, owner of MLC Insurance Agency, voted the best Park City insurance agency in 2022 and 2023, says policy issues tend to move slowly. Currently, there are some insurance companies that have a higher deductible for wildfire claims, mostly in the 2 – 5% range. Newitt believes it is likely that requiring a separate wildfire policy would affect new policies, with existing ones being grandfathered in. As far as home protection overall, she is “a huge advocate for automatic water shut-off systems.”

Wildfire risk assessment

Many insurance companies use the same software to assess wildfire risks, such as Redzone. This results in the companies dropping houses in entire zip codes from their insurance policies. The most reported insurance company, having dropped homeowners’ insurance policies in this area, is Chubb.

Individual homeowners can use a tool called Risk Factor at riskfactor.com to check their own property’s risk factor. None of these assessment tools include factors unique to a particular home or neighborhood.

Insurance companies currently writing policies

For those in the market for a new homeowners’ insurance company, the following companies have been reported as still offering insurance in Summit and Wasatch counties: USAA, State Farm, American Family, Farmers, AIG, Berkley One, Safeco, Vault and Cincinnati insurance. American Modern will also insure local homes, but there is a cap of one million dollars, so they have limited applicability in this area.

Insurance companies not writing or actively dropping policies

Travelers is not writing any new policies in Summit County and Chubb, Allstate, Auto-Owners and Bear River are known to have dropped homeowners’ policies in this area.

To stay up to date on home proteciton, residents are encouraged to participate in the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 4.

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