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Does homeowners insurance cover fire?

two firefighters on a ladder working to put out a house fire
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There were about 1.2 million fires in the U.S. in 2019, the last year for which data is available, which caused $14.8 billion in losses in total, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If you own a home, a house fire is a risk to be aware of, as a fire could damage parts of your home or completely envelop your property, causing significant financial losses.

There are steps you can take to mitigate the chance of a house fire. However, it may be comforting to know that most home insurance policies will cover damage caused by fire. Home insurance policies typically cover your structure and belongings against several different perils, and fire is one of them. However, there are a few situations, outlined in this article, in which your insurance provider may not cover losses.

Key takeaways
  • Home insurance policies typically cover losses from a fire.
  • Your home insurance policy will not typically cover any fires that were started intentionally in your home.
  • There are certain preventative measures you can take to help mitigate damage if a fire does start in your home. These measures include installing smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

Does home insurance cover fire?

You may be wondering: does insurance cover fire damage? And in what specific instances might home insurance cover fire? Homeowners insurance typically covers fire and smoke damage. House fires may start from cooking, burning candles, dry Christmas trees, heating equipment, electrical malfunctions, appliances, lightning strikes or a fireplace fire burning out of control.

What does a home policy typically cover in a fire?

Home insurance policies will typically cover damages caused by fire – whether it was caused by electrical wires, cooking, candles, your fireplace, heaters or another household item. You may be wondering: Does homeowners insurance cover accidental fire? Typically, even if the fire was started accidentally or by user error, such as leaving the stove unattended, your home insurance policy will likely cover the damage.

Fire damage that a home policy may cover

Your house may or may not be protected against wildfires. Many home insurance policies will cover damages caused by wildfires. However, if you live in an area prone to wildfires, your home insurance company may charge more for your premiums or decline insurance coverage altogether if you live in a wildfire-prone area or state. Some states, like California, also have FAIR plans that you can purchase for coverage if you cannot obtain coverage elsewhere. The best way to find out if you’re covered against wildfire damage may be to contact your insurance agent and ask about the specifics of your policy.

Fire damage that a home policy won’t cover

Does homeowners insurance cover fire? Yes. However, home insurance policies do not cover arson, or any fires purposely started to damage your home. If someone were to burn their house down with the hope of collecting an insurance payout, that person may be charged with insurance fraud.

Do homeowners need a separate fire policy?

No, homeowners typically do not need a separate fire policy. Nearly all standard homeowners insurance policies already include coverage types that typically pay out to cover fires, so you wouldn’t have to purchase a separate policy for fire coverage. The coverage types that would pay out to cover damages caused by a fire include:

  • Dwelling coverage: Dwelling coverage would likely pay out to rebuild your home if a fire were to destroy parts or all of the structure.
  • Personal property coverage: This coverage typically pays out to repair or replace damaged items, such as electronics and furniture.
  • Liability coverage: This coverage could pay out if the fire were to damage part of your neighbor’s property.
  • Loss of use coverage: If the fire renders you unable to live in your home, this coverage may be used to help you temporarily relocate. It may pay for the cost of staying in a hotel, food, laundry and other necessary additional living expenses.
  • Other structures coverage: Any other structures on your property would typically be covered under this coverage type.

How much a home policy covers for fire

The average claim amount for fire and lightning damage is $78,838, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). How much your insurance covers depends on your coverage limits. Your policy will outline your coverage limits, and it may be helpful to talk about these limits with an insurance agent.

If your house burns down and you have $250,000 in dwelling coverage, your insurance would pay for up to $250,000 worth of rebuilding costs, minus any deductible you are responsible for. If you’re underinsured and the rebuild will cost $350,000, you would then have to pay $100,000 out-of-pocket for the difference, unless you have a coverage option such as extended or guaranteed replacement cost coverage that increases your dwelling coverage limit.

Frequently asked questions

What steps can I take to prevent a wildfire?

You may be wondering how to protect your home from a wildfire. To protect your home from wildfires, you may want to create a fire-resistant “defensible space,” which is an area around your home which may include landscaping, gutters, roofing and windows. Using non-flammable construction materials and tempered glass windows can help your home be more fire-resistant. You may want to clear your yard of debris, leaves and undergrowth and lay mulch to reduce the risk of wildfire enveloping your property.

What steps can I take to prevent a house fire?

You may want to install smoke alarms and sprinklers, which can notify you in case of fire and then begin to fight it. When using space heaters, burning candles, cooking, or enjoying a fire in your fireplace, you may want to be especially vigilant and stay in the room at all times. It’s best to call professional firefighters if a fire does start, no matter how small it may initially be.

Will my personal belongings coverage cover furniture that has smoke damage, but isn’t burned?

Yes, your personal belongings coverage may cover furniture or other personal items with smoke damage after a fire occurs in your home.

Does insurance cover cigarette fires?

One question homeowners may have is: does insurance cover cigarette fires? Typically, a cigarette fire would be covered, as long as it was accidental. Fires caused by arson, on the other hand, are typically listed as an exclusion on your policy.

Written by
Lizzie Nealon
Insurance Writer
Lizzie Nealon is a former insurance writer for Bankrate. Her favorite part of the job is making home, auto and life insurance digestible for readers so they can prepare for the future.
Edited by
Insurance Editor