As California enters the New Year, both Northern and Southern California have experienced problems with wildfires. Of the six fires in the Northern California Region which occurred over the last month, one still remains active and is only 40% contained in Calaveras County.

When Northern and Central California experiences wildfires, even if the local vineyards are not in immediate danger of burning, local wineries may keep careful watch as the smoke poses a danger to vineyard workers. Heavy smoke may cause delays for a winery and the smoke damage to a year’s crop can change the wine.

Los Angeles County has been plagued with arson fires. More than 50 blazes have flared since Friday in Hollywood, neighboring West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, causing about $3 million in damage. Although most of these fires were set in vehicles, a few blazes were set in buildings. Today, a suspect was taken into custody and charged. Southern California has not seen arson like this for years and it has brought terror to the surrounding neighborhoods. For each of these fire victims, they have lost property, and the arson will likely be covered under their insurance policies. However, the fear derived from such an act of arson lingers.

Whether it is a wildfire or an arson fire, the loss is the same. Fire consumes a home or vehicle in minutes, leaving little to nothing but salvage. Submitting a claim to an insurer for destruction from a wildfire or arson is pretty much the same as submitting any other claim for a total loss. An insured must report the claim in a timely manner and submit to any preconditions of coverage such as providing a sworn affidavit of a proof of loss or submitting to an examination under oath.

In these instances, it is incredibly important to be able to inventory the loss for the insurer. For example, a claim might not only include a vehicle damaged in a fire, but also the contents of the vehicle, such as laptops or luggage.

Putting a claim together can be difficult or confusing. Fortunately, United Policyholders has compiled several great resources for policyholders. You can order a copy of United Policyholders’ Disaster Relief Handbook and Household Inventory Guide here.