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Liability and Insurance

Prescribed Fire Liability

Liability is an important consideration for private landowners and others who conduct prescribed burning, and liability concerns often are cited as a primary reason that landowners are reluctant to use prescribed fire. However, this concern is inconsistent with the facts of prescribed fire use, law, and liability. Minimizing the risk of liability will require increasing understanding of prescribed fire laws, developing robust and affordable liability insurance, and promoting public communication and outreach to alleviate concerns about fire-related risks.

Each of the thirteen states in the Southern region has a law in place related to prescribed burning, but the laws vary regarding the legal obligations imposed and the guidelines for liability protection.

This April 2022 Prescribed Fire Liability Report for the Southern United States: A Summary of Statutes and Cases document was created to summarize these laws, associated regulations, and known court cases for each Southern state in order to help increase understanding and minimize landowners’ risk of liability associated with prescribed fire.

To download a report for a specific Southern state, please click here. It is anticipated that these reports will be updated on an annual basis. If you would like to have your state report printed professionally, please contact jennifer_fawcett@ncsu.edu for the print-friendly version.

Insurance

The below information on insurance options was compiled in 2015. Since that time, the prescribed fire insurance industry and options available for landowners and consultants may have changed significantly. The following resources have been produced more recently and may contain more up to date information:

Insurance Options for Landowners and Consultants

The following information is provided for general information and educational purposes only, not to provide specific legal advice. It is not an endorsement of any organization or agency and is not considered inclusive. Individuals should consult directly with the insurance company, organization, or a licensed professional attorney to find out more information.

Insurance coverage for prescribed burning is available from several companies in the Southeast under an extended Forester’s policy or as a separate insurance policy specifically for prescribed burning. Other carriers are outlined specific to Texas in this fact sheet.  A survey of insurance companies conducted in 2013, and re-surveyed in 2015 by North Carolina State University found that the following agencies provide prescribed fire liability coverage in the Southeast and to other regions in the United States:

Survey results found that while costs varied widely between companies, all of the surveyed providers required (at a minimum) that the policy holder be a certified burner within their respective state and provide proof of experience in prescribed burning.   Below is the range of prices for various aspects of prescribed fire insurance. Click here for a printable version of this information.

Range of Prices from Surveyed Providers

Annual1
Per Burn1
Deductible2
Per Occurrence3
Aggregate3
$250-25,000$250 & up$0-5,000$100,000-  1 million$100,000-2 million
    1To be paid by the insured on an annual or “per burn” basis.
    2To be paid by the insured in the event of a claim.
    3Maximum coverage provided by insurance company in the event of a claim.

When looking for insurance, here are some important items to consider:

  • A “per burn” policy may be more appropriate than an annual policy for those who burn infrequently or burn a small amount of acreage.
  • Some companies only provide coverage to agencies or forestry consultants who provide prescribed burning as a service, while other companies also provide coverage to private landowners.
  • Prices vary by state, payroll, percent of burning conducted in relation to overall forestry services, average annual burn acreage, years of experience, membership in an affiliated organization, etc.
  • Options may be available for the amount of deductible, per occurrence, and/or aggregate coverage.
  • Additional umbrella/excess liability policies may be available to provide coverage above the primary limits.

Did You Know….?

Some insurance companies provide discounts or other benefits to members of certain organizations. Examples of these organizations include the Association of Consulting Foresters, Society of American Foresters, National Wild Turkey Federation, and The Longleaf Alliance. For savings on insurance costs, burners may consider joining one of these organizations in which affiliated insurance providers offer reduced rates to members.

What are the benefits of having insurance?

Prescribed fire insurance combined with state statutes may better protect burners from the risks of liabilities associated with conducting prescribed burns. In addition to coverage associated with claims for things such as personal injury, property damage, medical expenses, or damage to rented premises, it would be very hard for a burner to be proven negligent for smoke damages incurred from a prescribed burn if he/she had prescribed burn insurance and if the burn was conducted properly.

In addition, liability insurance can oftentimes be tax deductible.

By: Jennifer Fawcett, Extension Associate, North Carolina State University

Do you know of a company or organization not shown on this list who provides a prescribed fire insurance product or offers discounts to members in the Southeast? Please e-mail Jennifer Fawcett at jennifer_fawcett@ncsu.edu.