How does home insurance cover wildfire damage?
If your home is destroyed by a wildfire, homeowners insurance provides coverage for your home itself, other structures on your property, your landscaping, personal belongings, and additional living expenses if you need to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired.
1. The structure of your home
If your home is damaged by a wildfire, your policy’s dwelling coverage can pay to rebuild or repair your house and remediate any smoke damage. If the destruction causes a pile of debris on your property, homeowners insurance can pay to remove it.
Your dwelling coverage limit is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay out for rebuild or repair costs. Because of this, it should be equal to your home’s replacement cost, which is the amount it would cost to rebuild your house from the ground up. Your replacement cost is based on factors such as local labor and construction costs as well as the style and size of your home.
2. Other structures on your property
Your home insurance policy will also cover other structures on your property damaged by wildfires, including fencing, driveways and walkways, garages not attached to your home, sheds, and more.
Your other structures coverage limit is generally set at 10% of your policy’s dwelling limit, but most companies will let you adjust your coverage levels to ensure you’re fully protected.
3. Your landscaping
If trees, shrubs, and plants in your lawn are scorched in a wildfire, your home insurance policy likely covers these landscaping elements up to a certain limit — typically around 5% of your dwelling coverage.
Just pay close attention to other special limits outlined in your policy for shrubbery. Many insurance companies won’t pay more than $500 to $1,500 for any one tree, shrub, or plant.
4. Your personal belongings
Homeowners insurance also covers the cost of repairing or replacing any damaged belongings — like furniture, clothing, and jewelry — up to the personal property coverage limit in your policy.
Your personal property coverage limit is generally set at 50% of your policy’s dwelling limit, but most insurance companies will let you adjust your coverage levels to suit your needs.
5. Your additional living expenses
If your home is set ablaze and you’re forced to evacuate, your policy’s loss of use coverage can reimburse you for living expenses while you’re away from home, including:
Hotel or temporary rental
Laundry and dry cleaning
What other coverages can protect my home from wildfires?
Consider adding extended replacement cost or guaranteed replacement cost coverage to your home insurance policy to further protect your home from wildfire damage.
Extended replacement cost coverage
Extended replacement cost coverage is an endorsement that you can add-on to your home policy that increases your dwelling coverage limit an extra 25% to 50%.
Here’s how it works.
Say a wildfire destroys your home and neighborhood, which leads to an increased demand for construction and labor. This can cause the cost of labor and construction to skyrocket, leaving you without enough coverage to fully rebuild your home. Extended replacement cost can extend your coverage limits in the event that this happens.
Guaranteed replacement cost coverage
Guaranteed replacement cost coverage is another coverage add-on, but it extends your coverage limit no matter how much it costs.
Here’s how it works.
If a fire or storm destroys your home, guaranteed replacement cost coverage ensures your home will be fully rebuilt to the way it was before — regardless of if it costs double or triple your coverage limits.
How to find wildfire coverage in high-risk wildfire areas
As wildfires continue to get larger and more costly for the insurance industry, coverage denials and policy cancellations have become the norm. If you live in a fire-prone area and you’ve been repeatedly denied homeowners insurance, you have a few options to get the coverage you need.
Your state’s FAIR plan
Most states offer what is referred to as a Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plan, or FAIR Plan. This is a type of last-resort homeowners insurance for residents who can’t find wildfire coverage on the open market.
These policies provide less coverage than a typical homeowners insurance policy and are generally more expensive, so FAIR Plans are only recommended as a last resort.
Excess and surplus lines insurance
Your other option is to purchase coverage through an excess and surplus lines insurer, which is becoming increasingly popular in wildfire-prone states like California. Home insurance direct premiums written in California by excess and surplus carriers almost tripled since 2018 — increasing in 2021 to $235 million, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis. 
Also known as E&S insurance, this is a type of property insurance that covers risks that are too high for a regular insurance company to take on — including extreme wildfire risk. Since E&S insurance companies take on more risk than regular insurers, this type of coverage is typically more expensive than standard homeowners insurance.
Here are a few popular E&S insurance companies to consider:
Cincinnati Specialty Underwriters (subsidiary of The Cincinnati Insurance)
Chubb Custom Insurance (subsidiary of Chubb)
Lexington Insurance (subsidiary of AIG)
North Light Specialty Insurance (subsidiary of Allstate)
Scottsdale Insurance (subsidiary of Nationwide)
High-value homeowners insurance companies
If your home is worth more than $1 million, consider wildfire coverage through a premier insurance company that specializes in protecting high-value homes. In addition to covering wildfire damage, premier insurance companies often provide policy perks like wildfire mitigation and private firefighter services.
Here are a few popular premier insurance companies for high-value homes in wildfire areas:
How to prevent wildfire damage to your home
Homeowners insurance rates are based largely on your home’s location and any potential hazards it faces. If your property is full of dry leaves and pine needles or you have trees or foliage next to your home, you may be charged astronomical premiums or denied coverage altogether.
By taking the following steps, you’ll lower your home’s risk of wildfire damage and lower your home insurance rates:
Make sure your home has a 6-inch ground-to-siding clearance
Consider noncombustible siding and roofing
Clear debris from your roof
Cover your home with Class A roofing, like concrete or clay roof tiles
Clean your gutters regularly
Use nonflammable fencing and gates
Protect your windows using multi-pane or tempered glass materials
Make sure all windows are closed if a wildfire is in close range