The Yarnell Hill Fire near Prescott killed 19 firefighters and destroyed more than 100 homes. Experts say such disasters should give other homeowners the impetus to make sure their homeowner policies are up to date.


PHOENIX - Industry experts consider the Yarnell Hill Fire a wake-up call for insurance preparations.

Publicity around the blaze near Prescott, in which 19 wildland firefighters died June 30, is a reminder that unaffected homeowners should review policies to see if they have adequate insurance and appropriate types of coverage, suggests the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

The lightning-sparked fire destroyed more than 100 homes.

One key point for homeowners is understanding the difference between replacement-cost and actual-cash-value coverage. The former pays higher benefits because it provides for the repair or replacement of damages at current costs, while the latter deducts estimated depreciation, or wear and tear.

Another key point is to make sure the policy includes recent additions, remodeling or other upgrades that have enhanced the value of the home.

The group also suggests keeping a regular inventory of key belongings and, if possible, taking photos or videotapes of them. This can speed up the processing of claims.

Anyone affected by a fire should contact the insurance company immediately.

"Insurers are moving into the area and are standing by to work with policyholders to help them understand the claims-settlement process and offer customer assistance," said Kelly Campbell, a PCI vice president, in a statement related to the Yarnell Hill Fire. "Adjusters will work individually with policyholders to help them get back to normal life as soon as possible."

It's also smart to save all receipts for hotel rooms, meals, pet-boarding expenses and other costs related to an evacuation, since these often will be reimbursed through homeowner policies, according to State Farm.

Premiums lower here

Property and casualty insurers generally have been operating profitably in recent years in Arizona.

Last year, the industry earned $1.25 billion in premiums against losses paid of $701 million, according to the Arizona Department of Insurance, which describes the market here as intensely competitive.

Homeowner insurance premiums in Arizona average $617 and have been on a slight downward trend, according to They're also well below the latest U.S. average of $853.

The Arizona Republic