What Is Fire Insurance?

Definition & Examples of Fire Insurance

A firefighter with a hose, fire raging behind him
•••

David McNew / Getty Images

Fire insurance is a type of property coverage that pays for damages and other losses that you may suffer from a fire. It covers the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property in your home, as well as costs of living if you have to move out while your home is unusable.

The National Fire Protection Association reported in November 2020 that U.S. fire departments responded to about 353,100 house fires from 2014 to 2018. Fire coverage is included in most homeowner's policies. But there are certain exclusions from coverage. It's key to know what yours includes and what your options are for protecting your biggest investment—your home.

Key Takeaways

  • Fire insurance is often included in your homeowners policy, but it can be purchased as a separate policy if needed.
  • It covers damages to your home, personal possessions, and some other aspects of your property, along with some costs of lodging and food during repairs.
  • Coverage limits and deductibles will be the same amounts as what you've chosen for the rest of your policy.
  • Standard fire insurance does not cover arson, certain acts of war, or properties that have been vacant more than 30 days.

What Is Fire Insurance?

Fire insurance is a type of coverage that is often included in your homeowner's policy. It covers the costs of damage to your property due to a fire. It also includes your personal belongings and expenses for lodging and meals above and beyond your normal living expenses, up to your policy limits. It's subject to the same deductible and coverage limits as the rest of your policy.

Any detached structures on your land, such as sheds, fences, or detached garages, are often covered as well. Some policies will also help pay for landscaping costs, such as damage to trees and shrubs.

Your landlord's insurance will cover the costs of property damage from a fire if you live in a rental home. But you're still on the hook for your personal possessions. You'll need renters insurance to cover those losses.

How Fire Insurance Works

You must file a claim with your insurer to get damages covered in the event of a fire on your property. Be sure to take pictures of all damage to document your claim. The company will send a claims adjuster to your house to assess the damage. Check their identity when they arrive, because scams do happen. Walk with them through your property to make sure they see everything.

Review the estimate when you receive it from your insurer. Compare it to your policy terms to make sure it matches what you paid for.

What Does Fire Insurance Not Cover?

Your homeowner's policy will pay for damage to your home up to the policy limits for fire damage. But most policies exclude damage caused by war, nuclear radiation, and other associated perils.

It won't be covered if a homeowner sets their home on fire on purpose. Damage to a vacant home is also not covered, at least not if the home was vacant for more than 30 days in a row at the time of the fire. You can buy a “vacant homeowners insurance policy” if you want to cover a home that isn't being lived in.

Your policy may exclude other events as well, or charge higher premiums for them, depending on where you live. You may be subject to certain limits if you live in an area that's at high risk for wildfires.

You can purchase extra fire insurance above and beyond your homeowner's policy to cover damages that your standard policy does not.

It's not covered by homeowners insurance if your auto is destroyed or damaged due to a fire at your home. Damage to your car is paid for by the comprehensive portion of your auto policy. Damage to your auto isn't covered if you only have liability auto insurance in place.

Replacement Cost vs. Actual Cash Value

Find out if your policy pays actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost for property that's damaged by fire. ACV coverage may not be enough to replace items you lost at today’s market value. But you might be able to add a rider to your policy to cover the replacement cost. This will allow you to replace your items with new ones of the same quality, but your premium will be higher.

Actual cash value vs. replacement cost is also a big factor when it comes to rebuilding your home. The cost to rebuild may be much greater than the home’s actual cash value.

Fire Insurance for Business Owners

Fire damage to a business is often covered in the basic business owner’s policy. This includes damage to your building, attached and detached structures, office equipment, and inventory.

Most owner’s policies will also pay for extra operating expenses if you must move your business to a temporary location. Keep a current inventory of business equipment and other valuable items. You should also keep vital documents off-site so they're not destroyed in a fire.

Do I Need Fire Insurance?

Your home is one of your most important investments. Homeowner's insurance that includes fire insurance can protect you from financial disaster.

Having fire insurance can become even more important depending on where you live. Areas such as California, for example, have seen an uptick in wildfires in recent years. The area burned by California wildfires each year has been increasing since 1950, and eight of the state's 20 largest wildfires have occurred since 2017.

If you have a mortgage, your lender will make you buy homeowners insurance if you have a mortgage. But it's good to have it in place even if you own your home free and clear. Insurance will protect your finances and assets in the case of disaster even if you have full equity in your home.

Homeowners insurance is a must unless you can cover the costs of rebuilding your home and replacing your possessions out of pocket. Make sure yours includes fire insurance so you are protected in any type of emergency.