Fire season is a time of year that is reaching further and wider. To manage our forests’ protection in the time of fire danger and damage, there are specific fire contract crews that come on the scene. In all the moving parts of operating as a fire contractor, it’s worth gaining both insight and assistance in ensuring you are properly covered while on scene.
This short Q&A brings up some important trends to become aware of, not just in the operation of fire contract insurance, but in knowing who you can talk to about whats needed for you to be covered in the field.
Russ Schweikert of Ashland Insurance asking Betty Goldey, Wildland Firefighting Insurance Specialist some questions that you may find interesting:
Tell me about the single most likely error you find in wildfire defense companies currently operating:
Well, I may be a little biased on this one. But, the biggest and most likely error I find are the people who are not insured properly. Sometimes it comes from the fact that they tried to do it themselves, and thought they could add a commercial rig to their personal auto. Sometimes it comes from a place of trying to save money, so they don’t tell their insurance professional the whole story about what they do. And, sometimes it comes from a lack of understanding about how insurance works and they think they’ve taken all the right precautions and tried to do it right, but it still just isn’t. The worst is when they try to find the right coverage but no one is willing to work with them because they are too “risky,” so they just kind of give up or take what they can get even if it isn’t right.
Tell me about the single largest obstacle that companies face when navigating the state and/or federal licensing process:
When seeking contracts with state and federal agencies, people don’t always understand how many hoops you have to jump through, and how much time and money you end up spending before you’re ever out there earning. Many people who may have worked for someone else have ideas that go something like: buy equipment = make money. However, the reality is much more complicated. None of the individual steps you have to take are necessarily hard or overly complicated, but there are a lot of them and it can be pretty overwhelming.
How can a firm hedge their bets against financial risks in wildfire fighting:
Find people who can help! Your first call should be to your state’s PTAC. After that, as you acquire more equipment, and hire more professionals. If you are a single operator with a single piece of equipment, you can probably navigate it all yourself. However, most people want to grow their businesses. As you do, find a good accountant, hire a payroll and/or bookkeeping professional, work with an insurance brokerage. We all can’t be good at everything. If you try to do it all yourself in an effort to save money, you could end up costing yourself in BIG ways. Paying an extra $1000 for pollution coverage on your insurance might be annoying, but staring down $500,000 bill because a piece of rebar punctured your fuel tank and leaked diesel into a forest stream would be crippling
Why are you unique in your support and background in this realm?
I feel like I stumbled through most of these processes the hard way. I made mistakes and then had to go through the processes to fix them. So, luckily, I know some of the pitfalls to avoid! Fire Contractors face an interesting obstacle in that they are needed, but misunderstood in how the business operates. Most people who don’t track the industry don’t fully understand all the components.
So, a fire contractor who has equipment that is used in the ancillary/support field might not ever see active fire but then have to explain to someone (like an insurance representative) that they “are fire fighters, but not really.”
Or how their staff is seasonal, but a different season than a farm would have.
Or, how their piece of equipment isn’t used year-round.
I walk an interesting and unique line between having been there with running a company like this and here, working in the professional services world behind a desk. I consider myself a type of translator that can help fire contractors understand their risks from an insurance perspective, and insurance companies understand the specifics of fire contracting.
What is your geographical reach for providing these services?
We currently operate in 26 states, offering our coverage accordingly. The states that sit Colorado and westward are the ones that hold higher risk of wildfires.
For more information, contact Betty Goldey to start the conversation today.
Call or Text at 541-608-1872