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.

There are numerous household hazards that can result in damage to your home, including the risk of fires. Fire can lead to significant damage to a home — and when the source is a wildfire, it is largely out of your control. The most recent reports suggest that wildfires did more than $15.9 billion in damage to properties in the U.S. in 2021, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In order to protect yourself from the financial risk of fire, it’s important to understand your home insurance policy and what coverage it provides. Here’s what you should know.

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Does homeowners insurance cover fire?

Typically, home insurance covers fire and smoke damage.

House fires can start from a number of conditions inside the home, such as a candle or an appliance like a stove catching fire. It can also start from an external force such as a wildfire or a lightning strike. In most cases, these types of fires will be covered by your homeowners insurance, up to your policy limit to repair damage done.

What does a home policy typically cover in a fire?

Homeowners insurance policies will usually cover the most common types of fires, including electrical wires, cooking, candles, your fireplace, heaters or another household item. Accidental fires or fires that are started by user error or mistakes will also likely be covered by your insurance policy.

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 home insurance company and ask about the specifics of your policy.

Fire damage that a home policy won’t cover

Homeowners insurance policies do not cover arson or fire that is caused purposely or done with the intention to damage the home. If someone attempted to burn down their own home in hopes of collecting an insurance payout and that was discovered by the insurance company, that person would be charged with insurance fraud and would face additional penalties for this action.

Also, it’s important to know that knob and tube wiring isn’t always covered. When quoting homeowner insurance, the company or licensed insurance agent will ask about the home’s electrical system.

If you are unsure what your policy covers, check with your home insurance company.

Do homeowners need separate home fire insurance?

No, homeowners typically do not need a separate fire policy. But as mentioned, it may be harder or more expensive to get coverage if you live in a wildfire-prone area or state.

Nearly all standard homeowners insurance policies do 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: Many detached structures on your property may be covered by this type of coverage.
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Bankrate’s take: It's important to remember that your coverage types have coverage limits. Reviewing your policy with a licensed insurance agent on a regular basis can help reduce the risk of you being underinsured if a claim does happen.

What does home insurance pay out for a fire?

The average claim amount for fire and lightning damage is $83,519, 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 your deductible. 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

    • To help 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.
    • There are numerous steps you can take to try and prevent a house fire. For starters, you can install smoke alarms and sprinklers, which will both alert you to the fire and work to help contain or fight it. Other steps that may benefit you include staying vigilant when using items with open flames, like candles or space heaters, or when using your fireplace or cooking. If a fire does break out in your house, it’s typically best to call professional firefighters to contain it, no matter how small it may initially be. Fires can get out of control quickly and there may not be time to spare, so alerting firefighters to the issue can mean the difference between a small fire and one that grows out of control.
    • Yes, your personal belongings coverage may cover your furniture or other personal items damaged by smoke after a fire occurs in your home. However, you may want to check with your insurance agent or read your policy to ensure this damage is covered and the coverage amount is enough. Some personal belongings, like jewelry, may have lower limits below your standard personal property coverage limit.
    • If a person were to attempt to burn down their own home on purpose with the intent of collecting the insurance payout, they could be charged with committing insurance fraud. However, if someone else sets fire to your home, it may be covered under your policy. Typically, something like a cigarette fire would be covered, as long as it was accidental.

Correction, Feb. 10, 2023 3:23 pm ET: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that any other structures on your property are typically covered by other structures coverage. This article has been updated to state that many detached structures on your property may be covered by other structures coverage.