Wildfires are a persistent threat in Canada, but they have increased significantly over the last few years, putting small business owners and their commercial properties at greater risk than in decades past.

Unfortunately, not only are wildfires becoming more ferocious and frequent, but the Canadian wildfire season also starts earlier now than it used to – in Alberta, the province declared wildfire season started on February 20 instead of the usual start date of March 1.

Meanwhile, Natural Resources Canada (NRC) says the annual average area burned by wildfires has more than doubled since the early 1970s. In 2023, wildfires scorched an unprecedented amount of land in our country, notably in Western Canada and stretching into the North and Atlantic provinces. NRC notes that the 2023 wildfire season torched an incredible 16.5 million hectares (40.7 acres) of land – an area larger than Greece. Last year was our country’s worst wildfire season on record, and the federal government says dry, hot weather is expected this spring and summer, putting much of the country at greater risk of wildfires.

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Moreover, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, severe weather and natural disasters (including wildfires) caused more than $3 billion in insured damages in 2022 and 2023.

Although a business insurance policy that includes commercial property insurance won’t prevent wildfire damage to your workplace, it is essential coverage to help pay to repair, replace, and rebuild that which is lost to wildfires.

What Can Small Businesses Do to Protect Their Properties From Wildfires?

Wildfires raging out of control are nearly impossible to contain, making it difficult for small business owners to protect their properties. However, preparedness is everything, and there are steps you can take to try to minimize the destruction of your property, including:

  • Be aware of weather and drought conditions in your region or province. Each provincial government provides wildfire updates in their respective areas:
  • Conduct regular maintenance on gas-powered equipment and vehicles. Also, consider renovating your building with fire-resistant materials, such as metal roofing and non-combustible siding.
  • Fireproof your commercial space by disposing of dried debris around the property, clearing gutters and eavestroughs, and keeping combustible materials at least 10 metres away from your building.
  • Ensure smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and your building’s interior sprinkler system are working properly.
  • Hire a landscaping contractor to trim your property’s trees, shrubs, and grass, and ensure plants are planted 2 metres away from your building’s foundation.
  • Back up your business’s critical data (this should be done regularly) and make digital copies to store in the cloud and at an offsite location.
  • Participate in community wildfire preparedness programs, share resources with neighbouring businesses, and work with your local fire department to implement damage prevention measures.

It’s also wise to ensure you have a business continuity plan if you’re forced to evacuate your municipality and relocate elsewhere temporarily. 

Additional Resources for Small Businesses Dealing With Wildfire Risks

Explore these additional resources for tips on what to do before, during, and after a wildfire:

  • Get Prepared is the federal government’s site providing Canadians with information and support for a range of emergencies and natural disasters.

How Can Insurance Help Small Businesses Affected by Wildfires?

Running any small business without a comprehensive insurance policy is like playing with fire. 

You never know when an accident may occur or when disasters may strike that can potentially destroy your business and devastate your finances. Business insurance helps you pick up the pieces and start over versus being forced to declare bankruptcy.

A customized insurance policy containing general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and business interruption insurance is critical to have in your back pocket. 

How to Get Business Insurance to Protect Your Commercial Property

Zensurance can get your small business the low-cost, comprehensive protection you need to safeguard your finances and help you endure and recover from unforeseen accidents, damages and losses, wildfires and other natural disasters.

Fill out our online application for a free quote.

Let our experienced, friendly brokers shop our partner network of over 50 insurers to find and customize a business insurance policy that suits your business and budget.

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About the Author: Brandon Bowie

Brandon Bowie is a Team Lead, Professional Lines at Zensurance.