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Fort McMurray Wildfires - One year later

It's been a year since wildfires engulfed Fort McMurray forcing 80,000 residents from their homes in the largest wildfire evacuation the province of Alberta has ever seen. But that wasn't the only record that was broken - with approximately 2500 homes burned to the ground, and hundreds more left with smoke, water and other damages - the wildfires were also the costliest insured disaster in Canadian history!

The magnitude of this disaster meant the insurance industry had to move quickly and move quite literally to the area to support the tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes. Claims professionals were sent to shelters to work with evacuees, mobile units were set up and hundreds of adjusters were dispatched to the area to help assess damages. Because of the urgency of the evacuation many residents arrived to make claims with little to no identification which often made the process more of a challenge. 
With nearly 48,000 claims filed and 3.8 billion paid out in insurance claims as a result of the fires, the fires have been catastrophic for the region, but have also offered learning and continued evolution within the insurance industry.
The responsiveness and nimbleness of the industry, coupled with the effective collaboration with local authorities worked well overall in Fort McMurray.  This all serves as a good example of how to respond to, and prepare for these large scale disasters moving forward.
As of the end of April 650 rebuild permits had been approved and nearly three dozen families have moved into new homes. This may not sound like a lot but in the first 3 months of this year 222 family homes were started which is the most houses started in a three month period since 2008. While the community continues to recover and progress is still being made, there is still much to be done.
The Insurance Bureau of Canada also is encouraging resources be put to prevention of wildfires rather than just dealing with the aftermath.
Bill Adams, the bureau’s vice-president, suggests that while governments are spending more on ways to reduce the threat,  it isn’t enough. He suggests that  precautions such as creating buffer zones around communities and homes by removing trees and brush that could act as pathways for a fire are necessary, and that builders should be required to use less flammable roofing and siding materials.
So, the insurance industry not only plays critical a role in helping residents restore their losses and get through a difficult time - it's also here to advocate on behalf of these communities and draw attention to the existing risks, and put strategies into place that decrease  the chances of this happening again.
To learn more about the role the industry plays in these types of events as a Claims Manager,  Greg Thierman talks about his experience during the Kelowna Wildfires.

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