Flood After Wildfires: Having Flood Insurance is Important
Floods are the most common and costly natural hazard in the nation. After a wildfire, the flood risk increases significantly. The time to buy flood insurance is now. Homeowners, renters and business owners need to protect themselves financially from the devastating losses flooding can bring--including after a wildfire--before the next weather event occurs.
Wildfires Increase Flood Risk
Large-scale wildfires dramatically alter the terrain and ground conditions. Normally, vegetation absorbs rainfall, reducing runoff. However, wildfires leave the ground charred, barren, and unable to absorb water, creating conditions ripe for flash flooding and mudflow. Flood risk remains significantly higher until vegetation is restored—up to 5 years after a wildfire. Flooding after a fire is often more severe, as debris and ash left from the fire can form mudflows. As rainwater moves across charred and denuded ground, it can also pick up soil and sediment and carry it in a stream of floodwaters. This can cause more significant damage.
Homeowners and Renters Insurance Don't Cover Flood Damage
A flood does not have to be a catastrophic event to bring high out-of-pocket costs, and you do not have to live in a high-risk flood area to suffer flood damage. Around twenty percent of flood insurance claims occur in moderate-to-low risk areas. And, do you know you are five times more likely to experience a flood than a fire during the next 30 years? Property owners should remember to:
Buy Flood Insurance. Most standard homeowners' and renters' policies do not cover flood damage. Flood insurance for properties considered to be, statistically speaking, at lower risk for flooding (outside the high-risk flood areas) is probably much more affordable than you realize. And it is likely to be the only policy that will help you if your property is flooded, including after a wildfire.
Will It Take 30 days for My Policy to Become Effective?
Typically, there's a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase until your policy goes into effect. Here are the exceptions:
- If a property is affected by flooding on burned federal land and the policy is purchased within 60 days of the fire-containment date, there may be no waiting period. Waiving of the waiting period is determined at the time of claim.
- If the building is newly designated in the high-risk Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and you purchase flood insurance coverage for it within the 13-month period following a map revision, there is a 1-day waiting period.
- If you purchase flood insurance in connection with making, increasing, extending, or renewing your mortgage loan, there is no waiting period.
- If you select additional insurance as an option on your insurance policy renewal bill, there is no waiting period.
*Ask your insurance agent or company about these exceptions.
Flood After Fire Risks includes fact sheets, an infographic and other information about floods after wildfires. These documents are also available in Spanish.
NFIP bulletin W-18001 discusses the effective date for flood insurance policies purchased in a “flood after fire” disaster. This bulletin is a reminder about the exception of effective dates for new NFIP flood insurance when there is flooding caused by post-wildfire conditions that originate on federal land.
How Do I Buy Flood Insurance?
Here's what you need to know about buying flood insurance--including the questions you should ask to get the right amount and type of coverage.
Still Need Help?
If you still have questions, try searching for answers on this site, glancing through the page titles in the navigation menu, or visiting Got a Problem?