The wildfire that devastated Lytton on June 30, 2021 is now estimated to have caused $102 million in insured damage, up from the initial estimate of $78 million, according to new figures from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ). With the number of claims largely unchanged, the significant delays in recovery and reconstruction are a key driver of the increased costs.
"It has been over six months since wildfire devastated Lytton, yet the reconstruction of homes and businesses has yet to be permitted in the village," said Aaron Sutherland, Vice-President, Pacific and Western, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). "We commend those leading recovery efforts, but greater urgency is needed. The community remains much the same today as it was immediately following the fire, only now it is blanketed by several inches of snow. The ongoing uncertainty only makes this devastating situation even harder for many impacted residents. Tragically, long delays in the recovery process may result in fewer residents returning to the community."
July, 2021 vs present day
The removal of debris from destroyed properties, which would typically occur within days or weeks of the damage, is not yet permitted. The community is in an area of significant archeological importance to local First Nations, and it is critical that a respectful, responsible debris removal process begins immediately so that items of archeological significance can be protected.
Until ash and debris are removed, and the important archeological work commences, there is no prospect of beginning the work needed to rebuild Lytton. In contrast, two other communities devastated by wildfire -- Fort McMurray (2016) and Slave Lake (2011) -- had most of the debris removed after six months, and reconstruction was well underway.
Another concern that will arise in the coming months is the expiry of additional living expense (ALE) supports that insurers are providing. ALE helps insured residents cover the additional cost of accommodation and other living expenses as they wait for their home to be reconstructed. However, there are limits to these coverages and continued delays increases the likelihood that some residents may exhaust this financial support before their home is rebuilt.
"Our hearts continue to go out to everyone impacted by this tragic event," said Sutherland. "Canada's insurers are eager to begin the rebuild of homes and business in Lytton. The sooner work commences, the more likely we are to see a thriving community once again."
Anyone who has been affected by this event or who has questions about their home, vehicle or business insurance, should call their insurance representative or IBC's Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.
The amount of insured damage is an estimate provided by CatIQ (www.catiq.com) under licence to IBC.