Wildfire Disaster and Recovery
While wildfires can start naturally via the sun’s heat or a lightning strike, it is estimated that 90% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by human activity. That human activity—leaving a campfire unattended, carelessly disposing of a cigarette or committing arson—can have devastating effects on you, your family and your community. If you or a loved one have been affected by a wildfire caused by the activity of others, know you may be able to recover compensation under current wildfire laws.
How do wildfires start?
Wildfires can start naturally via the sun’s heat or a lightning strike, but it is estimated that 90% are caused by human activity, including mismanaged campfires, discarded smoking products and arson.
As climate change accelerates, wildfires will grow in number and scope. The Environmental Defense Fund notes rising temperatures will:
- Dry out soil and vegetation faster, creating more fuel for wildfires
- Melt the snowpack earlier, leaving soil conditions drier for longer periods of time
- Shift meteorological patterns, “… [driving] rain away from wildfire-prone regions, a phenomenon scientists discovered in California and have linked to human-made climate change” See https://www.edf.org/climate/heres-how-climate-change-affects-wildfires
How do you prepare for wildfires?
In Washington State, fire season runs from July to September. Recently, the season has begun to shift—starting earlier and ending later. Wildfires can occur anywhere conditions are right: hot temperatures with low humidity and high winds. Fortunately, it is possible for you and your family to prepare for a wildfire in your area. Washington’s Department of Natural Resources recommends starting with a written plan for you and your family—make sure everyone in your house understands the plan and what they need to do in the event of a wildfire.
Other suggestions include:
- Use fire resistant materials when building or renovating
- Make sure your insurance coverage is adequate
- Create a “fire resistant zone” around where you live, removing debris and clutter that could fuel a fire
- Designate a room you can seal off from smoke
- Know your evacuation zone
- Gather enough supplies for everyone in your household in case you need to shelter in place or evacuate
- Monitor conditions and sign up for alerts from local and federal agencies
For more information on creating your own wildfire plan, visit:
What is the best way to stay safe in an area with wildfires?
Wildfires can happen anywhere and at any time conditions are favorable. To keep you and your loved ones safe, it is recommended you:
- Be aware of fire conditions in and around your area
- Listen to local alert systems
- Connect your garden hoses to the house and fill available garbage cans, tubs and other large containers with water
- Move flammable outdoor furniture and accessories away from your house
- Evacuate, if ordered
Who is responsible if a wildfire causes injury or death?
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) investigates and determines the causes of wildfires in the United States and its territories. If NIFC rules a wildfire started naturally, as in a lightning strike, no one is responsible for resulting injuries or death. If it turns out the fire was started by a careless individual or company, they may be held liable for resulting injuries and/or deaths.
What does an investigation into an injury caused by a wildfire entail?
The first step is to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss injuries suffered by you or your loved ones and other wildfire-related damages. In addition to physical injuries, you may be entitled to recover damages related to your property, death(s), additional living expenses, emotional trauma (PTSD) and pain and suffering.
Who can I sue for wildfire damages?
If a wildfire was caused by the careless actions of an individual or company, rather than Mother Nature, it may be possible to sue the responsible individual or company and recover damages. Your attorney must be able to prove the responsible party’s negligence resulted in the wildfire.
What damages can I recover from wildfires?
You may be entitled to compensation for wildfire loss or damage to structures and items on your property, for bodily injuries or death, for additional living expenses, for emotional trauma (PTSD) and for pain and suffering.
What is FEMA, and how does it work?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) helps people before, during and after disasters. Washington State is part of FEMA’s “Region 10,” which also includes Alaska, Idaho and Oregon. The agency may be able to provide you with housing and other expenses resulting from the disaster, including:
- Funds for temporary housing
- A temporary housing unit
- Repair or replacement of owner-occupied homes
- Other disaster-related expenses
- Hazard mitigation assistance to help you rebuild
You can apply for federal disaster assistance online at fema.gov/assistance.
How can PCVA help if you are injured in a wildfire?
PCVA’s experienced attorneys can help you understand your options for pursuing compensation and damages from those responsible for starting the wildfire. If you would like to speak with a PCVA lawyer, complete our intake form or call us at (253) 948-3199 or (206) 536-2850.
How much does PCVA charge?
Our work is done on a contingency basis. This means we only get paid if you win.