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Insurance expert talks wildfire preparedness

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The wildfire season started off with some very high levels of danger in the region. Alberta Wildfire’s latest update says some widespread showers across the region have helped to keep the current wildfire risk low.

City Fire Chief Preben Bossen says they have taken a number of steps in the city and surrounding area to reduce the risk of wildfire spreading in preparation for fire season.

“Our main threat probably is the Bear Creek corridor. But the county has done some work in the south end. The main concern is the fire would come up in that corridor basically.”

Crews from the city, county and the province have worked to reduce the “fuel” that could cause fires to spread should they start in the region. That includes removing dead or dry grass and timber next to roads and ditches and from forest areas.

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Western Director of Consumer/Industry Relations with the Insurance Bureau of Canada Rob Dupuis says that almost all basic policies will cover wildfire damage.

“This is essentially how insurance started many, many years ago. [It] was covering the peril of fire. So if your community and your home has a threat of fire virtually every insurance policy does have coverage or protection for you from that.”

Dupuis says it is important for families to have an emergency plan and a 72-hour emergency kit. He also says making sure that the plan has enough coverage for the home and its contents is important.

“If they walked around their house with a calculator and added up everything that they own, and they had to purchase that in today’s dollars, many people would be surprised at how much that would cost.”

Dupuis suggests renters follow similar steps. He recommends they have content insurance for their home. He also says most of those policies will have coverage for living expenses should a wildfire force an evacuation.

The Fort McMurray fire forced municipalities around Alberta to examine their risk for fire. Chief Bossen is confident Grande Prairie wouldn’t see that level of an emergency.

“We’re not surrounded by forest. For the most part, we’re surrounded by farmland and that creates a whole different level of security.”

He says the space between properties and broken up nature of the land around acts as a barrier in some spots.

Currently Birch Hills County north of Grande Prairie has a fire advisory notice in place. A heat warning has come into effect for Grande Prairie as a hot, dry week is in the forecast.

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