In the spring of 2011, a devastating fire burned through the town of Slave Lake. Around one-third of Slave Lake was impacted by this fire as it displaced thousands of policyholders.
This blog will reflect on this horrific fire and re-evaluate the extreme conditions that many policyholders faced and the thousands of claims that impacted the insurance industry. Read until the end of this article to discover how we can be better prepared for unfortunate events like this in the future.
The 2011 Slave Lake Fire
On May 14th, 2011, Slave Lake, a small town in the province of Alberta, was engulfed in flames that took down the entire town. What started as a small fire 15 kilometres away from Slave Lake, travelled deep into the town’s centre. Ash and rubble crashed down as an intense fire pushed through and caused tremendous damage forcing a state of local emergency. The 7,000 Albertans living in Slave Lake at the time evacuated to Athabasca, Westlock and Edmonton for safety while the fires lit up their homes and workplaces.
By May 16th, 2011, the flames had stopped, and ⅓ of the town was left with almost nothing but debris. Policyholders were told that it would be weeks before they could return as there was no water, electricity or power. This two-day fire heavily impacted both policyholders and insurance companies alike.
With the help of the RCMP, emergency responders concluded that the cause of the fire was arson, with no suspects to be found. The impact that this fire had on the town’s residents caused an uproar within the community as thousands of policyholders were displaced and left with nothing.
Luckily, Canadian citizens and provincial officials came to help the area with federal funding and donations for The Canadian Red Cross and various relief programs in support and care for the community. They also received extra help from companies, such as ATB Financial, who altered and deferred any payments that affected policyholders directly–including mortgage payments and various loans. These companies and individuals acted fast to help Slave Lake create a recovery plan that would help them rebuild their community in the future.
Statistics Regarding the Slave Lake Fire
The 2011 Slave Lake fire was named the second costliest insured disaster in all of Canadian history at the time. With extreme damages, here are the key numbers that can help you understand just how impactful this unfortunate situation really was.
- $700 million in damages (IBC)
- 374 damaged properties (CBC)
- 2000 residents were displaced (CBC)
- $189 million donated from the Alberta government (The Globe and Mail)
- 33% of the town was destroyed (IBC)
- 22, 518.59 hectares of land burned (Edmonton Journal)
Impacts on the Insurance Industry
Insurance companies were set on fire along with the town of Slave Lake. All of the damages caused great controversy as this man-made fire grew to a raging blaze, leaving the insurance providers with nothing but an unknown arsonist to blame. These insurance companies pushed to help all of the policyholders residing in and around Slave Lake during the difficult time.
A Shortage of Adjusters
Many insurance companies had to bring in extra support from out of province to help assist them as the increased workload put a significant strain on the adjusters. As the fire diminished, adjusters needed to process claims immediately so that policyholders could plan for their recovery. Working with this immense amount of claims and processing them triple as fast, the Slave Lake fire took a considerable toll on the insurance industry and the adjusters.
No Documentation for Insurance Adjusters
With homes blowing away with the ashes, families had no choice but to abandon their personal belongings in the emergency evacuation, which meant losing their valuable documents and identification.
As the Identifications were disintegrating into the ground, families had no way of providing insurance companies with the typical documentation that is commonly required when submitting a claim. Although this was another battle that adjusters had to face, insurance companies supported the policyholders at all costs and ensured that they got the appropriate help and support they needed. With no proof or provided documentation, insurance companies were working together to obtain files and documentation for families that had their entire world flipped upside down.
The Slave Lake fire highlighted the fact that these catastrophic events can defeat and tear down adjusters and insurance companies. With the significant increase in workloads, having no documentation to make the process efficient, and working as fast as possible, the Slave Lake fire proves that even the insurance industry needs support during catastrophic events.
With over 2000 Slave Lake residents displaced, finding temporary accommodations for desperate families increased insurance adjuster workloads substantially. Fortunately, displaced citizens were able to find comfort in the 350 units of temporary housing built by the Alberta government specifically for them. This housing solution allowed policyholders to stay within the community while their homes were under construction. It is believed that the temporary housing saved Slave Lake and gave policyholders hope for the future.
Luckily, when the school season arrived the next fall, the school enrolment numbers remained the same, meaning parents weren’t moving or abandoning Slave Lake. This was a strong indication to the insurance industry that temporary housing positively affects families living in unfortunate situations.
Extinguishing Stress in the Insurance Industry
In two years, 80% of Slave Lake was rebuilt, and people started looking past the catastrophic event and onto a bright new future.
Insurance companies were working overtime and trying to maintain a positive outlook while helping and supporting 2000+ policyholders throughout their recovery process. When hard times arise, workloads can substantially increase due to an overwhelming rise in claims for insurance companies.
We can never be sure when the next wildfire will disrupt a city or town in Canada, which is why you need to be prepared. Accomsure helps policyholders find temporary accommodation throughout times of uncertainty. Let us take some weight off of your shoulders and assist your policyholders with ALE management so that you can direct your focus to their claims. Choose the ALE experts; choose Accomsure. Submit a claim today!