Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. estimates over $720 million in insured losses have been attributed to wildfires in the Okanagan (McDougall Creek) and Shuswap (Bush Creek East), resulting in these wildfires being named the most costly insured event ever recorded in British Columbia and the tenth costliest in Canada’s history.
Aaron Sutherland, Vice-President of Pacific and Western, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), commented, “This year’s wildfire season has broken all records in terms of the amount of land burned and damage caused to homes and businesses in BC. Our hearts go out to every individual and family who has been impacted by these wildfires, and to the firefighters who lost their lives helping to protect our communities.
“The wildfires’ impact is another tragic reminder of the risk BC residents face due to climate change and the increasing frequency of natural catastrophes.”
In the Shuswap area, the Bush Creek East Wildfire caused over $240 million in insured damage with extensive damage to properties in communities north of Shuswap Lake. More than 270 structures are confirmed to have been destroyed, along with damage to public infrastructure, including hydro poles resulting in power outages for thousands of customers.
The Bush Creek East wildfire started in mid-July in BC’s Shuswap region in a relatively unpopulated area, until it spreading rapidly in early and mid-August, and began racing through communities in North Shuswap, including Scotch Creek and Celista.
Most of the wildfire destruction occurred during its 20-kilometre run through the North Shuswap region on August 18, 2023. Due to the fire’s rapid expansion, there was an increase in Evacuation Orders and Alerts, with about 3,500 properties subject to Evacuation Orders in the Shuswap region.
In the Okanagan area, the McDougall Creek Wildfire caused over $480 million in insured damage. The McDougall Creek, Clark Creek and Walroy Lake wildfires started in the central Okanagan Valley in mid-August 2023. Due to hot, dry and windy conditions, the three fires spread quickly, leading to evacuations on both sides of Okanagan Lake. Structural damage was reported in the communities of West Kelowna, Kelowna and Lake Country, and many properties were completely destroyed.
In West Kelowna, officials confirmed 70 homes were affected by the wildfires, and 20 were lost in Westbank First Nation. In Kelowna, three homes and two outbuildings were completely destroyed, with a further three being destroyed in Lake Country. In the areas of Traders Cove and Lake Okanagan Resort, an estimated 100 structures were completely destroyed. The Lake Okanagan Resort was also destroyed.
“Canada’s insurers are here to help their customers rebuild following this devastating loss. Wildfire damage is covered by all standard home and business insurance policies, and anyone who has been affected by these events or has questions about their coverage should call their insurance representative. They are there to help and to support consumers with recovery and reconstruction efforts. Anyone with general insurance questions can also contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC,” added Sutherland.
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