One year later: A look at the Fort McMurray wildfire and rebuild by the numbers

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. _ It’s been one year since a wildfire devastated parts of the northern Alberta city of Fort McMurray. Here is a look at the rebuild by the numbers:

1,595: Number of buildings and structures destroyed in the fire. Includes 2,579 dwelling units.

650: Approximate number of development permits issued by Fort McMurray since the fire, representing about 900 dwelling units.

222: Number of single-family homes started in the first three months of the year. Most starts in a three-month stretch since early 2008.

179: Number of homebuilders that have registered under new disclosure laws to do work in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

33: Approximate number of families living in rebuilt homes as of the start of April.

48,000: Roughly the total number of insurance claims expected to be processed. Includes 12,000 auto claims and 25,000 home claims.

$80,000: Average insurance payout per claim.

$3.8 billion: Estimated total payout in insurance claims.

9.8: Unemployment rate for the Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake area as of March 2016.

9.1: Unemployment rate for the Wood Buffalo-Cold Lake area as of March 2017.

600: Approximate decline in student numbers in public and Catholic schools for 2016-2017 year. Total enrolment slightly more than 11,000 between the two school systems.

1.5 million: Average barrels of oil per day produced from the oilsands before the fire.

3 million: Record high number of barrels per day produced from the oilsands in November, six months after the fire.

12,000: Estimated number of fridges and freezers that had to be replaced, according to Insurance Bureau of Canada.

$660,000: Median home price in March 2016 on 21 homes sold.

$560,000: Median sale price of the 45 single detached homes sold in March.

11: Number of single family vacant lots sold in March, at a median sale price of $156,000, compared with none sold in March 2016.

17.8: Total vacancy rate for Wood Buffalo as of October 2016. A year earlier it stood at 29.3 per cent.

29,068: Number of mental-health-related client contacts between May 10, 2016, and March 18, 2017, at Alberta Health Services Addiction and Mental Health in Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo.

$189 million: Total amount of money donated to the Red Cross.

$134 million: Total value of donations that were matched by the federal and provincial governments.

$231 million: Total amount the Red Cross says it has allocated to support individuals and families.

$30 million: Total amount the Red Cross says it has allocated to support small businesses.

$50 million: Total amount the Red Cross says it has allocated to support community groups.

10,900: The number of plane and bus tickets the Red Cross booked to help people return home.

37,000: The number of cleanup kits handed out to returning evacuees.

6,000 per cent: The surge in social media traffic the Red Cross saw in the aftermath of the fire.

40: The number of volunteers required to manage the Red Cross social media accounts.

$45M insurance claims from March windstorm in eastern Newfoundland

Excerpted article was By Marilyn Boone, CBC News

Insurance companies have tallied the cost of a March blizzard that whipped through eastern Newfoundland and says damage claims covered by insurance add up to $45 million.

Hurricane-force winds on March 11 gusted more than 140 km/hr damaging residential and commercial buildings, vehicles and power lines.

Siding and roofs were stripped from houses, traffic lights were torn from their posts and windows were blown out of vehicles.

More than 70,000 people were without power, some for more than a day.

Winds were so strong in St. John’s that windows were blown out of vehicles in the Stavanger Drive area.

What happened is known in the insurance world as a catastrophic event, according to Amanda Dean, Atlantic vice president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada

“In the insurance industry, anything over 25 million is considered a catastrophic event,” Dean said.

The March 11 storm, on a Saturday, had residential and commercial clients calling their insurance companies the next day.

The storm came just months after remnants of Hurricane Matthew — in October 2016 — which resulted in $100 million worth of insurance claims by customers in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

In 2010, Hurricane Igor resulted in $75 million in insurance claims. Those figures from the insurance industry do not include damage to public infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

“One event doesn’t necessarily affect insurance rates,” Dean said, but noted that catastrophic events are happening more frequently.

Premiums charged are meant to fill up the pool of money that’s available to pay out claims and “once the pools are depleted, they have to be filled back up.”

Bay Roberts wharf

The wind ripped off the roof of this building on the Bay Roberts wharf, just one of the structures damaged in the March 11 storm. (Phil Smith/Twitter)

Fort McMurray is missing an opportunity to make itself more fire-resilient as it rebuilds, an insurance expert says.

Read more

Southern Ontario windstorm causes close to $100 million in insured damage

Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) reports that a windstorm which affected parts of southern Ontario on March 8, 2017 has resulted in almost $100 million in insured damage according to Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).

A low pressure system brought damaging winds to southern Ontario. The strongest gusts were felt in Hamilton, ON with wind speeds nearing 115 km/hr. Other parts of the region received wind gusts in the range of 70-105 km/hr.

“Windstorms can be a devastating force of nature. They can cause significant damage in a very short amount of time,” said Kim Donaldson, Vice-President, Ontario, IBC. “It is important that consumers take precautions and secure their property in an effort to minimize potential damage.  Consumers should also understand their insurance policies and know what’s covered before storms like these, or other catastrophes strike.”

The strong winds damaged roofs and caused trees and branches to fall on houses, roads, and power lines. Approximately 68,000 residents lost power and the Burlington Skyway was closed for several hours following a transport truck rollover caused by the wind. Unfortunately, a 23 year-old man died as a result of this storm.

For more information on how to protect property against windstorms and other disasters please visit IBC’s website.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers. Its member companies make up 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. For more than 50 years, IBC has worked with governments across the country to help make affordable home, auto and business insurance available for all Canadians. IBC supports the vision of consumers and governments trusting, valuing and supporting the private P&C insurance industry. It champions key issues and helps educate consumers on how best to protect their homes, cars, businesses and properties.

P&C insurance touches the lives of nearly every Canadian and plays a critical role in keeping businesses safe and the Canadian economy strong. It employs more than 120,000 Canadians, pays $9 billion in taxes and has a total premium base of $49 billion.

For media releases and more information, visit IBC’s Media Centre at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau and @IBC_Ontario or like us on Facebook. If you have a question about home, auto or business insurance, contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.

About CatIQ
Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) delivers detailed analytical and meteorological information on Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. Through its online subscription-based platform, CatIQ combines comprehensive insured loss indices and other related information to better serve the needs of the insurance and reinsurance industries, public sector and other stakeholders. To learn more, visit www.catiq.com.

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release.

SOURCE Insurance Bureau of Canada

Experts: Huge Toronto fire highlights value of contents insurance

By Michelle McQuigge

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Experts say a massive fire at a Toronto athletics facility this week that forced the evacuations of six buildings vividly demonstrates why landlords are increasingly insisting rental tenants obtain insurance for their homes.

They say the past five years have seen a noticeable spike in the number of landlords requiring would-be renters to prove that they have contents and liability insurance as a condition of their tenancy.

Though there are no numbers tracking the trend so far, they say anecdotal evidence suggests it’s most pronounced in Ontario.

They say tenant insurance, which typically combines both the contents and liability components, protects both landlords and residents from unexpected incidents such as Tuesday’s fire that sent heavy smoke billowing over a busy part of midtown Toronto.

The blaze ripped through the city’s Badminton and Racquet Club, causing much of the building to collapse and prompting evacuations of nearby condominiums and businesses.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Damage from unexpected disasters, such as the Toronto fire, would be covered by many policies, though individual terms would vary, said Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Condominium owners would likely be covered for the cost of alternative accommodations or smoke-damaged belongings, Karageorgos said, since most have had to obtain insurance as a condition of securing a mortgage.

But renters who felt the cost of insurance was unnecessary and chose not to purchase it may find bills mounting quickly, he said, adding the relatively modest price of insurance premiums could net huge savings if disaster strikes.

“There’s no law requiring a landlord to make sure that a tenant has that. It’s optional,” he said.  “However … it’s wise to have it.”

The trend towards an insistence on insurance for renters is relatively recent, according to the Canadian Federation of Apartment Associations.

President John Dickie said such clauses have been part of leases for years, but said they were not strictly enforced and rarely led to evictions.

A 2005 court decision in Ontario changed things by bringing some clarity to that province’s landlord-tenant act.

“The Act is silent about whether or not a landlord has the right to demand that tenants maintain insurance, or that they provide proof of coverage to their landlords,” reads the decision. “However, if the parties agree to it, it, too, becomes a contractual issue.”

Dickie said that decision touched off a slow increase in the number of landlords requiring insurance from their tenants, adding the trend has gained momentum in the past five years.

If a tenant promises to obtain insurance by signing a lease requiring it and then fails to do so, the landlord could then have grounds for eviction.

Asking tenants to pay premiums as low as $15 a month has clear advantages for landlords, he said, adding tenant insurance offers financial protection from the actions of others.

“It’s not our fault that a tenant let the bath overrun and the water ran down and ruined your heirloom dining room set,” Dickie offered as an example. “If the tenants get insurance for that, then it doesn’t turn around to be a problem that we have to deal with.”

Alberta pays tribute to first responders who battled massive Fort McMurray fire

The Alberta government is paying tribute to first responders who battled and dealt with the Fort McMurray wildfire.

The province is naming the bridge that crosses Highway 63, which goes through the town, as “Responders Way.”

The fire in May forced almost 90,000 people to flee the region and destroyed more than 1,900 structures.

When the first batch of residents were allowed back about a month later, first responders stood on the bridge over the highway to welcome them home.

Melissa Blake, mayor of the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes the city of Fort McMurray, says they are delighted with the tribute.

Premier Rachel Notley, who was in Fort McMurray on Wednesday to make the announcement, says people will think of what the first responders did every time they cross the bridge or drive under it.

“First responders, during the Wood Buffalo fire, absolutely made the difference. They made the difference between safety and danger, they made the difference between chaos and order, and certainly, in many, many cases, they made the difference between life and death,” said Notley.

“They dedicated themselves without thinking. All of you did, you just went out and you did your work, and you worked and you worked for hours and hours and days and days and I remember coming up here and seeing people who hadn’t gone home for days, they were just working and working, even knowing that their home wasn’t even there.”

Notley made several stops in the community on Wednesday, including spending time at Westwood High School with students in Grades 10, 11, and 12, all of whom had lost their home in the fire.

She also visited the very first home site to get a rebuild permit after the fire. The home is nearly completed.

Erin O’Neill, Wood Buffalo recovery branch lead, said in the Thickwood neighbourhood alone there were a total of 178 homes lost. She said so far 41 rebuild permits have been issued in Wood Buffalo and across the region 229 rebuild permits have been issued.

Some Fort McMurray residents have expressed anger over red tape and the slow pace of insurance payouts.

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