The wildfire burning in and around Yosemite National Park is very much in the news. Not anywhere close to being contained, the so-called Rim Fire has burned nearly 234 square miles (some news outlets are equating the burn area with the size of the city of Chicago) and continues to spread and threaten many homes.

California is no stranger to wildfires. When wildfires encroach upon towns or communities, for the homeowner, whether or not his homeowners policy will provide coverage for any wildfire damage may not be the first thought that comes to mind. There is the more pressing concern for not just the safety of the dwelling, but more importantly, family or other household members.

For all homeowners and especially those who live in areas prone to wildfire, it is important to check your homeowners policy and review any endorsements that arrive in the mail. Endorsements are amendments to a policy that affect or change coverage.

A reader of this blog recently brought to my attention a wildfire endorsement that came with a renewal notice issued by one particular insurance company. That endorsement required the homeowner to report any loss resulting from wildfire smoke within 90 days following the start of the wildfire. In addition, if the loss either occurred or was reported after the 90 days, then the coverage limits for the damage was a maximum of $5,000. I would not be surprised if more insurance companies make similar changes to coverage with respect to wildfire related losses. Insurance companies want to minimize their exposure, and for the unwary, policy changes that reduce or exclude coverage can produce the most unwanted surprises at the wrong time. Therefore, it is important to review the policy and any endorsements so you can be prepared ahead of time. If one insurance company no longer meets your needs, it is time to exercise your right as a consumer and find one that does.