Behchokǫ̀-Yellowknife and Hay River wildfires cause over $60 million in insured damage
Nov 20, 2023
This summer’s wildfires near Yellowknife and Hay River, Northwest Territories, resulted in over $60 million in insured losses, according to initial estimates from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ).
The wildfire in Behchokǫ̀-Yellowknife saw one of the largest evacuation efforts ever recorded in Canada, with approximately 20,000 individuals forced from their homes for about three weeks. “Our thoughts are with everyone whose lives were disrupted and whose property was damaged or destroyed,” said Rob de Pruis, National Director, Consumer and Industry Relations, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC). “Those wildfires could have been much worse, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the firefighters and first responders who helped to protect lives and property.”
“Canada’s insurers are still working diligently to help their customers repair and rebuild following this devastating loss,” added de Pruis. “Wildfire damage is covered by all standard home and business insurance policies, and anyone who has not yet reported a loss or has questions about their coverage should call their insurance representative. Insurers are available to help and support residents with recovery and reconstruction efforts. Anyone with general insurance questions can also contact IBC’s Consumer Information Centre at 1-844-2ask-IBC.”
As the impact of climate change grows, Canadians are experiencing more frequent and severe weather events – including floods, wildfires, heatwaves and windstorms. The federal government has laid the foundation for an effective response in the National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), which was announced mid-year as a way of shoring up Canada’s defences against climate change.
“This wildfire season set new records in terms of the amount of land burned and damage caused to personal and commercial property,” said Craig Stewart, Vice-President of Climate Change and Federal Issues, IBC. “No part of the country was spared, including communities in the Northwest Territories. As the frequency and severity of weather events such as wildfires continue to increase, we need to take immediate action to fund and rapidly implement Canada’s first National Adaptation Strategy.”
The federal government needs to invest at least $5.3 billion annually in the NAS over the next six years. IBC and its member insurers have been working with federal and provincial governments to set achievable targets in the NAS. For example, Canada can better prepare for increasingly severe wildfires by immediately mapping communities at high risk of wildfire and funding the development of wildfire community action plans in these areas.
“Stable and predictable funding will, among other things, empower Canadian communities to better assess their vulnerability to growing climate threats and invest in more resilient infrastructure,” added Stewart.
Hay River Wildfire
August 13–September 16, 2023 – Over $30 million in insured damage
The 4,000 residents of Hay River and the surrounding area, the community of Enterprise and K’atl’odeeche First Nation Reserve were ordered to evacuate on August 13. Over three quarters of the structures in Enterprise were destroyed, and damage was reported in Paradise Gardens and Patterson Road (20 kilometres south of Hay River), including four homes, a cabin and a travel trailer along the shores of Great Slave Lake that burned down. During the evacuation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported a dozen vehicles that were immobilized or destroyed by the fire along the highway outside of Enterprise.
August 16–September 6, 2023 – Over $30 million in insured damage
The Behchokǫ̀-Yellowknife wildfire started northwest of Yellowknife in late June. By late July, the fire had encroached the Behchokǫ̀ area, impacting the community of Rae and nearing Edzo and the Frank Channel, which connects Great Slave Lake to Marian Lake in the northwest. Ultimately, the fire destroyed four homes in the Rae area.
By mid-August, officials warned that the fire could reach Yellowknife city limits as fire behaviour increased due to dry, hot and windy conditions, and an evacuation was ordered.
Northwest Territories fire officials announced the wildfire was “being held” on August 28, indicating it was no longer expected to spread beyond its current boundaries.
The amount of estimated insured damage and event descriptions are provided by CatIQ (www.CatIQ.com) under licence to IBC.