Early start to fire season sends homeowners racing to buy insurance

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DENVER — The Sunshine Fire near Boulder is out, but it has many homeowners worried about the possibility of a historic fire season in Colorado.

Much of the Front Range and eastern half of the state is abnormally dry or under drought conditions.

Laura Sparks knows the risks of living in the middle of paradise. But it didn’t give her peace of mind when the fire blew up over the ridge from her home on Sunday morning.

“We were one of the early evacuations. We were mandatory evacuations,” Sparks said. “I never went back to sleep. I became obsessed with the fire.”

Sparks isn’t alone. High fire danger in winter is a reality many are already dealing with.

“I don’t think we really have a fire season in Colorado anymore,” said Carole Walker with the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

And that risk means you need to do your homework. The FOX31 Problem Solvers learned most people aren’t properly insured for a wildfire.

“The problem with insurance is no one wants to think about the unthinkable until it happens,” Walker said.  “Understand your insurance does have limits. You need to understand what it covers and what it doesn’t and how much you have.”

Sparks moved in three years ago, but her insurance carrier refused to cover her even though it had done a lot to eliminate debris around the home.

“It was extremely frustrating because I felt vulnerable,” Sparks said. “It’s not like I could go and shop insurance at that point. I had to take what I could get.”

Insurance experts say that’s more common than you might think.

Companies don’t like taking on a lot of risk and that’s why some today are getting creative to mitigate that risk, even offering private firefighting as part of insurance plans.

Pricey, but sometimes necessary steps you have to pay for to protect your home.

“They’ll come in, during a fire, when it’s safe and put foam or protection or have a fire truck at and protecting that property,” Carole Walker said.

Sparks is already thinking ahead for not if — but when — the next fire arrives.

“I’m going to get rid of the wood furniture and get metal furniture and it just made me aware of the things we can do to better protect it in the future,” Sparks said.

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