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Tips to monitor forest fires & protect your overseas property

The prolonged summer heatwave in Spain and Portugal has caused the worst wildfires in decades. Vast areas have been reduced to ashes, with tragic impact on both nature and property.

The destruction

In Portugal, the largest forest fire the Algarve has seen destroyed huge parts of Tavira council in the east Algarve. More than 26,500 hectares of forest and dozens of homes were destroyed. In Madeira, wildfires also forced the evacuation of dozens of villagers from their home.

In Neighbouring Spain and the Canary Islands, some 153,000 hectares (378,000 acres) of land has been scorched since the beginning of the year – the highest amount in a decade. Thousands of expats and holidaymakers were evacuated from homes, villas and hotels across the Costa del Sol as wildfires spread. Eye witnesses described seeing flames up to 50 feet high racing towards their homes. Unfortunately, some properties were either gutted or seriously damaged.

Protecting your property

Wildfires can cause destruction very quickly, so it’s paramount that your property is protected. A holiday home being reduced to a blackened shell is everyone’s nightmare.

If the worst does happen and your property is gutted, your buildings and contents insurance should protect you against fire damage. However, many properties are often underinsured as their buildings sum insured does not reflect the accurate cost of rebuilding the property. Therefore, any claims will be reduced if the property is underinsured. In the event of a fire, this amount is likely to be substantial.

Are your sums insured accurate? Read our guides to calculating buildings and contents insurance.

The fact that many overseas properties are often in the rural countryside surrounded by forests and scrubland puts them at risk from fire. How accessible your property for emergency services? Survey around your property for potential fire risks e.g. discarded glass bottles that can magnify the sun’s rays and cause fires. Do you have neighbours who light fires near your property? Have you done a fire risk assessment for your guests?

Monitoring forest fires

Here is a useful site from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) to monitor any current and recent fire situations.

If know of any other websites to monitor wildfires please add them in the comments.

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