By now we’ve all heard that local fire departments are worried about the extremely dry conditions this July 4.
Northwest Insurance Council President Karl Newman tells KIRO Radio he fully expects that some homes will burn.
“The good news for homeowners is that if you have homeowners insurance, your policy covers fire damage to your home and property,” Newman said.
So the next question is, what’s the punishment for the yahoo who lit off the illegal firework that landed on your roof?
“If your neighbor fires a bottle rocket that hits the siding of your home, lands on your roof, catches your home on fire — the good news is that your homeowners insurance will take care of that, less your deductible,” Newman said. “They will rebuild whatever part of your home is damaged up to the complete house itself.
“However, in that situation, they will also look at the circumstances and if they feel there was negligence, they may choose to go after the neighbor to recover some of those damages,” he said.
So that’s definitely something to consider if you’re the one lighting fireworks this year.
“For example, if you are the person who is using fireworks irresponsibly, you can be held liable for that,” he said. “And your neighbor’s or a business owner’s insurance company can come after you in court to recover damages caused by your negligence.”
But insurance also covers homeowners who are negligent.
“Homeowners insurance does have liability coverage for that. It’s typically going to kick in when you’ve been negligent,” Newman said. “Anything that is intentional is not covered. If you shoot a bottle rocket at your neighbor’s home on purpose and it catches on fire, the damage is on you.”
“But if it’s just negligence that you thought you were shooting it in one direction and it went another direction and lights your neighbor’s home on fire, your liability protection will cover you,” he said.
So to be protected, you have to burn down your neighbor’s house by accident.
Now, what if you come home with, say, the Great Grizzly Drive Me Crazy rocket cake and you accidentally light the fuse while it’s still on the porch?
“If your home is burned and caught on fire because of your own use of fireworks, you do have coverage for that,” Newman said. “However, your insurance company looks at situations like that and determines, based on your behavior over a course of time, if they [will] renew your policy.”
So if it’s completely out of character for you to burn down your house, you’re OK. But if you’ve done it before, they’re going to yank your future coverage.
Bottom line: the Fourth of July always means a spate of fireworks-induced blazes. There were 17,800 fires in homes and vehicles nationwide in 2011. In 2013, there were 11,400 people treated in emergency rooms for fireworks injuries.
So it’s important not to behave like an idiot.
“In terms of safety for your home, always use fireworks outdoors,” Newman said. “Don’t ignite them in your home or garage, obviously, and always have water handy to douse hot fireworks. Having a hose running and a bucket might be a good idea.”
“And only light one firework at a time. Keep it simple,” he said. “Don’t point or throw fireworks at other people and don’t relight dead fireworks. That one is a real common cause of injuries.”
And again, just to re-emphasize what I think is the most important Fourth of July advice you’ll ever hear: Always use fireworks outdoors.
Along those lines, always open the garage door before backing the car out. And always attach the bungee cord to the bridge before jumping. That applies every day, not just on the Fourth of July.