01 May Insurance Talk — Be Prepared with Wildland Fire Contractors Insurance
Rex and Cheri have the answers. Listen here.
Insurance Talk — Be Prepared with Wildland Fire Contractors Insurance
Rex Lesueur – Today we’re here to talk about one of our specialties. And that specialty is insuring wildland firefighters.
CM – And that’s very specific. We’re not talking about the firefighters that you think of on the big red truck. We’re thinking about the firefighters that are in the forest. The wildland.
RL – The forest service only has so many crews, and during the summer they hire part-time crews, people who work for the summer that actually work for the forest service. The BLM does the same thing, and so does the Oregon State Forestry and Washington State Forestry. All of the states have their own forestry operations.
They tend not to have enough equipment and/or people, and so they go out and hire independent contractors who contract with the state and the Fed to help them with the fires. And surprisingly there are a couple of thousand businesses like that out there in the country that are doing it. These businesses can run anywhere from a Type 6 engine, which is a small fire truck, to larger engines with crews. And then they can also be hand crews, people who go out with basically a pickaxe, a shovel, and a chainsaw to dig trenches, a fire trail. There are camp crews, people that set up camps that provide everything from food to Porta Potties to fuel to showers, all kinds of things in these camps. And they are set up so that these camps could get set up in a day, and a day later there could be a thousand firefighters operating out of these camps.
They need to be fed and showered and do all the things in daily living that you need to do out in these camps. So this is a very specific line of insurance. And one of the problems is that most insurance companies have these people called underwriters, and they’re wonderful people, and they have to make a decision as to whether or not they want to insure a business. Most of the time when there’s a fire nearby, the businesses that most underwriters want to insure are the kind of businesses that will skedaddle out of there and go and be gone and not necessarily be the kind of business that heads towards the fire.
CM – Which makes sense when you think about it. They’re insuring the property, they’re insuring all of the equipment, all of that. And they’re like, “I don’t know if I want you that close to a fire.”
RL – Right. But if it’s your job to go assist the people who were putting the fire out, you’ve got to get close to the fire. And so it takes a specialty underwriter to find somebody who is going to insure these people. And fortunately, at Bancorp, we actually know the right people. We know how to get it done. We insure more of these kinds of contractors than anybody else. And we can do it. It’s not that easy. I’m working on one today where someone had a claim and it’s not going to be the easiest account to put together, but for the most part, we use the premier company for insuring these kinds of contractors. And we can do the general liability and the auto. We can do your equipment, things like chainsaws, literally everything from a hand shovel to a D9 Caterpillar. It does not matter, we can do your equipment. Because they use those Cats to make fire lines, and we can insure them with our program. And all the sundry equipment that goes with them.
We insure the caterers that feed the guys, the Porta Potty contractors, there are even guys who come in and set up WiFi. They’re out in the middle of the woods and need WiFi, so they’ll have a guy who comes up with a trailer, put a satellite dish on top of his trailer, point it in the right direction, and the next thing you know, he’s broadcasting WiFi to everybody in the camp. And these people are all getting paid by the government to help run these camps.
CM – And they even have headquarters, places where the WiFi can be used with computers as well as fax machines and printers. Because even though a lot of this is digital nowadays, as sometimes when you’re out in the woods, they need to hand out physical paper to the guys. And they need to say, okay, you’re going on this ridge, we need to create a blockade right here. This is the map.
RL – And they can’t run 40 miles to Kinko’s to get this done. They’ve got to have somebody on site to do this.
CM – And they need to have somebody make sure there’s paper.
RL – This is a very specialized form of insurance that Bancorp Insurance does. We’re very good at it. One of the reasons we specialize in this is this is a harder kind of insurance for most people to find. And we find that it’s quite gratifying for us to be able to help contractors who are in this situation to get their insurance. But also, if you’ve got something else that’s tough to do, give us a call because we have the experience. I’ve got 42 years of experience in the insurance business. I know how to get a tough account placed. If it’s placeable, given the right conditions, I can usually find something that will work for your operation.
CM – I think you have a pretty good story actually of a time where you might’ve helped. One of our insureds is a sandwich production.
RL – Oh yeah, one of our insureds was nearby and they were a caterer. They called me up and their operation was just a few miles from La Pine. He said somebody cut themselves and they’re at the hospital, somebody’s sick, and somebody’s wife is having a baby or something like that. We’re three people short and we need to make sandwiches tonight. And he asked me if we could find somebody in La Pine to come down and help them make sandwiches for the next day. I actually went down myself with one of our other employees and their husband and we made sandwiches for them that night. They were really gracious. They paid my employees, they gave me a t-shirt, which is all I asked for.
CM – How many sandwiches did you make?
RL – We made I think 600 sandwiches that night. And it was really kind of interesting because you put the sandwich in the bag, and these guys, when they get a sandwich for lunch, it’s not just a little sandwich bag like your mom used to give you with lunch. No, it’s half the size of a grocery bag.
CM – They do have some regulations, make sure those guys that are fighting fire and hiking get full.
RL – Yeah and they have probably 8,000 calories in this bag. I’m sure that about half of it gets thrown away. But it was very interesting and a learning experience to go to camp and see all the people that make a fire camp work. So if there’s ever a forest fire near you and you see these people running around in these trucks, they’re all operating out of a base camp someplace that is very well organized, very well run by people who know what they’re doing. And the whole energy is to get the fire out so that we can save our woods.
CM – Alright, if you are interested in wildland fire contracting insurance, I mean that’s a mouthful just right there, really think about giving us a call. We might be able to take maybe a haphazard policy thrown together with a whole bunch of different people and package it together and make it make sense, especially on renewal. We like to do these normally in the early spring before fire season, so now’s the time, give us a call. 1-800-452-6826.