Disaster Sparks Insurance Coverage Reviews

September 10, 2013 by · Comments Off on Disaster Sparks Insurance Coverage Reviews 

Editor’s Note: Woodall’s Campground Management (WCM) contacted several campground insurers to comment on the fires in the West. Following are excerpts from their comments.

When it comes to forest fires, there are a few different coverages that apply, noted Damian Petty, an agent for Leavitt Recreation and Hospitality Insurance. Insurance can pay one of two ways:

•  “If the fire actually comes onto the property and catches a building on fire, most people have some type of business income coverage. However the key is the building or item has to be covered by the policy to trigger the business income coverage. For example, let’s say you have 40 sites that are on the back portion of the property but no buildings caught on fire. It would not trigger the coverage. However having just a few things insured like fences, outdoor equipment, pedestals or something like that is always a good idea because this could trigger the cancellation of business income coverage.

“With this being said and if coverage was available, most people don’t understand that the insurance will only pay for Net Profit, Continuing Expenses, and, if purchased, Extra Expenses. It will pay until the buildings are replaced or repaired and normally only up to 12 months. Most people think that it pays for Gross Income and this is what causes most of the problems when people get the check from the insurance company because it is much less than the gross income they thought they were going to get.

So, how does the insurance company go about determining the loss?

“Normally, they will look back on prior years’ taxes or accounting records to determine actual loss and compare them to your records during the time you were closed.

•  “The other Business Income that is on almost every policy is one for Civil Authority. If the forest fire is headed your way and civil authority requires you to leave your property, you have coverage for two weeks. Some companies are extending this to three and sometimes four weeks. However, one of the key parts to this coverage is you have to be required to leave your property as well as be gone for 72 hours before the coverage is triggered. They will pay you for your loss of income back to the first day you were required to leave, but the 72 hours is a deductible. For example, if you were required to leave like in the Canon City fires in Colorado this year, they were allowed back in and could open within the 72-hour period so no coverage would be offered. Some companies are doing right by people and paying because the road was closed for 68 hours but they don’t have to, according to the policy terms. However, the South Fork Fires in Colorado this year were a little different. They were required to leave for 8-10 days depending on where the business was located. This will pay for the entire time they were closed.”

Things that are not covered:

• You might be requested to prepare to be evacuated. The policy does not cover you for this time.

• Cancelation of reservations for future dates. Let’s say the fire is in June but people cancel for August. It will not pay for these.

• Maybe your resort is not closed but the highway that is mainly used to get to you was closed but people can drive around and still get to your resort.

• Extra Expenses might not be covered depending on the language in the policy.

• Your buildings burn on Sept 30 and you close for the season on Oct 10. They will only pay for loss of income for 10 days.


Tom Gerken

Tom Gerkin, an independent consultant for USI Insurance, reported, “Business interruption insurance or loss of income coverage is definitely a coverage option which most park owners take advantage of. Some insurance companies include some limited coverage in their policies with no additional premium charge, and with an option to purchase higher limits. Others offer it only as an option. Some carriers require you purchase a specific dollar amount of coverage while others leave this area wide open with ‘actual loss incurred’ policy language.

“The important thing for business owners to be aware of is that this is coverage for net income plus ongoing expenses, it does not cover their gross income. Oftentimes, lenders will ask park owners to provide coverage limits equal to their gross income. This is not prudent, as the premiums can be significant. Park owners should be certain their coverage is adequate, but not excessive. Most policies have a deductible for business interruption insurance as well. Instead of a dollar amount, the most common deductible I have seen is a 72-hour deductible, meaning there will be no coverage provided for that initial time frame. As with any insurance, the intent is to place you in the condition you were in prior to the loss.”


Campgrounds can guard against the loss of business while they are forced to close if they carry “business income and extra expense” coverage, also called “business interruption” coverage.

Lucas Hartford

This insurance covers the campground if there are government ordered closures that affect the business, explained Lucas Hartford, president of Evergreen USA.

“Most typically, we see this with wildfires in the West or hurricanes on the East Coast. Most companies usually have a deductible period of one to three days of closure before the coverage begins but after that the business is compensated for their net income loss,” Hartford said.

He estimated that 35% to 45% of campgrounds do purchase this coverage with limits varying from $5,000 of coverage to $5,000,000 of coverage.  But the average campground buys $50,000-$200,000 of coverage, he said.

“So far this year, Evergreen has been very fortunate and had very few large natural disasters affect its campgrounds that it insures,” he said. “The biggest natural disasters we have had have been some localized severe thunderstorms in the Northeast and Midwest. But we are remaining cautiously optimistic as hurricane season is upon us which is typically the greatest peril we face for our insureds.”



Western Forest Fires – An Overplayed Crisis?

September 10, 2013 by · Comments Off on Western Forest Fires – An Overplayed Crisis? 

Forest fires threatened campgrounds across the U.S. West this season. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

The horrific wildfires that scorched over 230 square miles of forest land near Yosemite National Park in California and more than 150 square miles in Central Idaho in August were the most dramatic of hundreds of wildfires that are making this year one of the worst U.S. fire seasons on record.

On Aug. 26, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, 50 major uncontained wildfires were burning throughout the West, including California, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. More than 19,000 firefighters were fighting the fires.

In California, more than 3,000 firefighters battled the Rim Fire as it burned just outside of Yosemite. Yosemite Lakes RV Resort at Hardin Flat, an Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc. (ELS) park, was in the middle of the burn area. Yosemite Ridge in Buck Meadows was temporarily evacuated but campers were allowed to return, after the fire burned right up to but not through the park. A third neighboring park, Yosemite Pines in Groveland, seemed safe as the fire appeared headed away from there.

These and similar campgrounds and RV parks in the paths of these flaming cauldrons across the Western U.S. have fallen victim in one way or another. But, says the executive of one state campground association, campers should remember to keep the fires in perspective.

“What is always disheartening to me is, people think the entire state is on fire,” Anne Chambers, executive director of the Boise-based Idaho RV Campgrounds Association (IRVCA), told Woodall’s Campground Management on Aug. 21. “That is not the case. Do we have major fires? Yes. Will they disrupt travel plans for most people? Probably not.”

Indeed, on that date, while several national forest campgrounds in the mountainous Sawtooth National Forest region of central Idaho were closed due to the Beaver Creek Fire which started on Aug. 7, Chambers knew of only one privately owned park, the Meadows RV Park in Ketchum, that was directly affected by the blaze. The 43-site park is located on U.S. 75 just south of Sun Valley. (See related story.)

Thirty miles to the east of the major fires, at the Craters of the Moon KOA in Arco, Idaho, life was pretty much as usual.

“People are asking us how the smoke is before they come here,” said Debbie Belknap, acting manager. “We can see the smoke in the air far away but we can’t smell it. I’ve only been here for a few weeks but I can’t say that it has affected anything.”

A few of the campers were evacuees from the fire zone. They had packed up what they could in their two vehicles and headed to the KOA earlier in the month, she noted. They have since left.

Most of Idaho’s 250 privately owned campgrounds were not affected by the fires, Chambers stressed.

In fact, Chambers said, “It’s been a great season for most of the campgrounds, and a banner season for some of them. The RV population in Idaho has been traveling and it’s been fabulous. I have yet to hear anyone say it (business) has been off this year. To this point it’s been good. I’m grateful the fires didn’t start until later in the season. It allowed most (parks) to have a good May, June, July and most of August.”

But all this does not hide the fact that fighting the Beaver Creek Fire and the nearby Elk Fire was the National Forest Service’s (NFS) No. 1 priority that month, Chambers was told during a meeting with NFS officials in Boise as the fires raged.

More than 1,200 people and 19 aircraft battled the lightning-caused Beaver Creek Fire. Nearly 90 fire engines were assigned to the region, many protecting homes in the affluent area where celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis own pricey getaways.

While Boise lies some three hours west of the fire zone, it was more or less unaffected by the inferno. In past years when fires burned in the national forests, it was not unusual for Chambers to smell smoke in the state’s Treasure Valley on the west side of the state where Boise is located.

“Not so much this time,” she said. “The wind seems to be blowing from west to east and blowing the smoke into Montana instead of blowing it our way,” she said.

Elsewhere in the region, in nearby Yellowstone National Park, a series of five wildfires became known as the “Druid Complex” and covered more than 11,000 acres.

Speaking for Billings, Mont.-based Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA), which has numerous campgrounds in the West, “aside for a bit of smoke (even in Billings) campgrounds are unaffected. All are open and operating as usual,” said Mike Gast, vice president of communications.

California Fires

In California, fires affected several campgrounds too.

In this Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, photo provided by the U.S. Forest Service, a member of the Bureau of Land Management Silver State Hotshot crew from Elko, Nevada, walks through a burn operation on the southern flank of the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park in Calif. / MIKE MCMILLAN,AP PHOTO/U.S. FOREST SERVICE

In Stanislaus National Forest area just outside Yosemite National Park, some 900 firefighters were battling the Rim Fire that started on Aug. 17 and had scorched more than 100 square miles within the first week. A state of emergency was declared. Several camps were evacuated that day as a safety precaution. Those included: San Jose’s Family Camp, Berkeley Tuolomne Camp, San Francisco’s Mather Camp and Camp Tawonga. About 200 senior citizens and a few dozen staffers were forced to evacuate from Camp Mather, which is owned and operated by the city of San Francisco as a public getaway for city families and was hosting a special week for the group.

The national park itself remained open and tourism was reported at normal levels inside the park.

The Chariot Fire broke out on July 6 near Julian, 60 miles east of San Diego, and destroyed the lodge, dining hall and all but about a dozen of 116 cabins at Al Bahr Mount Laguna Shrine Camp. A Sierra Club lodge across the road also burned.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Shriner Donald Wierman told U-T San Diego.

The camp, located in the Cleveland National Forest, was leased from forestry officials in 1921. It was at an elevation of 6,000 feet. About 30 people were evacuated from cabins and campgrounds before the fire hit.

Merchants in the mountain community of Idyllwild, which relies heavily on summer tourists, saw profits wane in the face of two major fires this summer, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported.

Visitors were slowly returning to towns in the San Jacinto Mountains after the Mountain Fire in July burned more than 27,000 acres of forest and led to a four-day evacuation for Idyllwild and a few other towns.

Then, the Silver Fire burned south of Banning in mid-August, closing Highway 243 and cutting off access to Idyllwild from the north.

On the south side of the mountain, the Lake Hemet Campground saw a definite decline in business. The campground was emptied during the Mountain Fire and served as a base for some of the 3,000-plus firefighters who were on duty. Now, operators are hoping campers will return.

“During the fire, people were calling up and cancelling,” General Manager Tim Colvin said in mid-August. “People think we were damaged here and they’re not calling. The phone should be ringing a lot more than it is right now.”

Mid-July to mid-August is traditionally the campground’s busiest season, with occupancy rates topping 80% for the park’s 600 spaces.

Two weeks after the Mountain Fire, occupancy was less than 70%.

The campground, which has fishing and boating as well, offered some bargains in hopes of attracting campers. Anyone who signed up for two nights of camping got a third night free, and those who stayed two nights got a free boat launch.

“We want people to know this campground wasn’t affected in any way,” Colvin said.

Camp Colorado Touts State

Camp Colorado takes lead in responding to wildfire news.

In June, Colorado was racked by several fires, one of them destroying the aerial tramway in the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park near Canon City. The fire burned 3,218 acres before being declared 100% contained on June 17. The park was within the burn area and, while the bridge itself survived, 48 of the park’s 52 buildings were destroyed.

Camp Colorado Executive Director Josh Keltner, in an appearance on Denver television on June 21, encouraged campers and other tourists to visit the Royal Gorge Region, which rebounded nicely following the three-day fire that damaged the Royal Gorge Bridge but left all private campgrounds unaffected.

“If you’re planning to go to the Royal Gorge Region this weekend or anywhere in the near future and you were thinking about canceling because of the fires, don’t,” Keltner told 9News, the Denver TV station.

9News went on to report that while the Royal Gorge suspension bridge needs repair, the railroad below “is 100% open and… this weekend the river is open thorough the gorge too, a relief to the workers who depend on tourists.”

The station made note of a large fire burning that same day near the Colorado town of South Park, 155 miles southwest of Cañon City. But that fire wasn’t affecting other areas of the state, which has 350 private campgrounds – virtually all of them open.

Camp Colorado, the state’s campground trade association, played a key role in correcting the misimpression that the Royal Gorge Region should be avoided. With the exception of the bridge, which reopened later in the summer, stores, restaurants and museums were open, and biking, hiking and rafting opportunities abounded.

The Black Forest Fire erupted in June near Colorado Springs and scorched more than 25 square miles, killed two people and destroyed nearly 400 buildings. The blaze surpassed last June’s Waldo Canyon Fire as the most destructive in state history.

Other Areas

While central Idaho burned, crews continued battling other wildfires across the West, including a group of three fires near the Oregon city of The Dalles, on the Columbia River, The Associated Press reported.

In Utah, a series of mountain fires burned more than a dozen homes in mid-August and more than 100 residents who were forced to leave Rockport Estates and Rockport Ranches, about 45 miles east of Salt Lake City.

Utah’s biggest blaze, the Patch Springs Fire, was estimated at 50 square miles.

In New Mexico, campgrounds in almost all of the Santa Fe National Forest and some nearby state parks were closed part of June due to ongoing fire risks.

In Arizona, 19 members of an elite “hotshots” crew died while battling a separate fire on June 30. –

Jarvis: More $$$ Needed to Fight Forest Fires

September 6, 2013 by · Comments Off on Jarvis: More $$$ Needed to Fight Forest Fires 

Jon Jarvis

Federal land managers have been fighting an uphill battle to gain additional funds to reduce the threat of wildfires in the West, according to National Park Service (NPS) Director Jon Jarvis.

However, according to a posting by National Parks Traveler, recent fires such as the Rim Fire that burned into Yosemite National Park seem to be sending the message to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that more money is needed to reduce fuels, the director said during a recent “National Webchat” with NPS staff across the country.

“My heart goes out to Yosemite National Park, which is dealing with the Rim Fire and to all the National Park Service employees who are currently deployed at Planning Level V. I’m sure we’ve got hundreds and hundreds of firefighters out there, on the line right now and entire organizations,” Director Jarvis said in a response to a question concerning the backlog in “fuel mitigation treatments” — forest thinning and prescribed burns, for example — in the parks.

Click here to read the entire story from National Parks Traveler.



Update: ‘Let It Burn’ Policy in National Parks!

August 30, 2013 by · Comments Off on Update: ‘Let It Burn’ Policy in National Parks! 

The Rim Fire destroyed forests in a national forest and a national park. But how firefighters fight the fire is different in these two adjacent regions. Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

As the massive Rim Fire roared out of the Stanislaus National Forest and deeper into Yosemite National Park this week, public attention rose sharply.

But the intensity of firefighting did not, the Los Angeles Times reported.

That’s because part of the blaze had crossed into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, which has a more restrained approach to managing wildfires than other federal, state and local fire agencies battling the 300-square-mile blaze.

Officials estimate that it will be fully contained in two or three weeks, but it is expected to keep smoldering for weeks longer and won’t be truly out for months.

“This fire will burn until the first rains or until the snow flies,” said Lee Bentley, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

Although the 4,900 firefighters here operate under a unified command, the park service has a very different firefighting philosophy from that of the forest service or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The portion of the Rim Fire burning outside the park is fought aggressively by the forest service and Cal Fire. Bulldozers rip fire lines across the landscape, and crews fell trees and set protective backfires. Helicopters and tanker airplanes drop water and retardant.

“We want to send as much equipment to a fire as we can,” said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant. “Our goal is to put it out early and avoid having a large fire.”

But inside parks, a policy often called “fire use,” accepts fire as a naturally occurring process and often a useful tool.

Click here to read the entire story.





Update: Chicago-Size Rim Fire 20% Contained

August 27, 2013 by · Comments Off on Update: Chicago-Size Rim Fire 20% Contained 

An undated photo of the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

The Rim Fire in California that has scorched an area roughly the size of Chicago near Yosemite National Park was 20% contained Monday nigh (Aug. 26), officials said — a jump from 7% the previous night, NBC News reported.

But fire, stretching 250 square miles, still threatens 4,500 structures as well as the power and water utilities for San Francisco, roughly 200 miles to the west. It has charred 160,980 acres and was growing rapidly, hampering suppression efforts, authorities said Monday night.

The raging flames also loomed over towering sequoias that are among the largest and oldest living things on the planet. The iconic trees can withstand fire, but brutal conditions — including harsh winds and thick brush — have prompted park employees to take extra precautions in the Tuolumne and Merced groves

Click here to read the entire story and to see photos from the fire.



200 Battling Yellowstone ‘Druid Complex’ Fire

August 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on 200 Battling Yellowstone ‘Druid Complex’ Fire 

Hundreds of firefighters were battling five different wildfires in Yellowstone National Park on Thursday. This line crew was heading out to the Alum Fire on Wednesday. NPS photo courtesy of National Parks Traveler.

More than 200 firefighters on Thursday (Aug. 22) were battling five wildfires that covered more than 11,000 acres in Yellowstone National Park, and received some help from cooler, wetter weather, National Parks Traveler reported.

Combined, the five lightning-sparked blazes were being managed as the Druid Complex.

Click here to read the entire story from National Parks Traveler.



Update: Fire Near Yosemite Tops 16,000 Acres

August 22, 2013 by · Comments Off on Update: Fire Near Yosemite Tops 16,000 Acres 

A wildfire burning west of Yosemite National Park has forced evacuations and the closure of Highway 120, blocking one of the key entryways to the popular tourist destination.

The Rim Fire had grown to 16,228 acres as it burned into a fifth day Wednesday morning, and firefighters had only achieved 5% containment, according to a spokesperson for the interagency incident management team.

The fire threatened more than 2,000 structures, including homes, hotels and camp buildings, as it burned eastward on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.

Communities along Ferretti Road were evacuated, along with Camp Towanga and the Spinning Wheel and Sawmill campgrounds.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, the fire was among the nation’s top firefighting priorities, the AP reports.

Fifty-one major uncontained wildfires are burning throughout the West, according to the center, including in California, Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. More than 19,000 firefighters were fighting the fires.



Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds

August 21, 2013 by · Comments Off on Current Briefs for RV Parks and Campgrounds 


From National Parks Traveler:

A 7 1/2-mile stretch of the Grand Loop Road in Yellowstone National Park was closed indefinitely Tuesday (Aug. 20) due to growth of the Alum Fire burning near the Mud Volcano area, park officials said.

Out of concern for public safety, the road was closed from Fishing Bridge Junction to the South Rim Drive of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Officials initially said a 13-mile stretch of road would be closed, but shortly thereafter decided to close just 7 1/2 miles.

Click here to read the entire story from National Parks Traveler.


From KOTA-TV, Scottsbluff:

The city of Scottsbluff is using keno funds to help make improvements to Riverside Campground.

City council members approved nearly $10,000 for park improvements.

The first step is to pay for new signage around the park.

The city is also looking to upgrade the electrical capacity at the campground.

An increase in use during parties and events has proven that the current electrical system does not have the capacity to meet the current demand.

“We have found out over time that what we have just isn’t sufficient,” explains Parks and Recreation Director Perry Mader, “which is kind of a blessing because we know our numbers down there are up, as we keep putting some of these upgrades in.”

The city will now bid out the electrical job to local contractors and the job should be completed in the coming months.


From the Beckley Register-Herald:

The New River Gorge National River plans to open its new flagship campground to the public in the early summer of 2014.

The Meadow Creek Campground, located on the banks of the New River about two miles downstream of the Sandstone Visitor Center, will offer visitors a variety of individual campsite types and one large group camping site.

Amenities will electric hook-ups at all campsites, water hookups at some campsites, communal water spigots, vault toilets and a camp host. An amphitheater for park interpretive programs and a public boat launch will serve both campers and the general public.

The campsites — four walk-in tent-only sites, 17 drive-in car sites and five drive-in RV sites — in the first phase of development at this new facility will provide expanded amenities to visitors.

Click here to read the entire story.


Yellowstone N.P. Wildfires Scorch 4,000 Acres

August 20, 2013 by · Comments Off on Yellowstone N.P. Wildfires Scorch 4,000 Acres 

Flames from the Alum Fire overwhelm woodlands in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service and National Parks Traveler.

Hot, dry conditions are feeding wildfires in Yellowstone National Park, some of which have grown by thousands of acres in just two days and were threatening a section of the Grand Loop Road on Monday (Aug. 19), National Parks Traveler reported.

The Alum Fire, which had been sparked by lightning to the west of Mud Volcano on Aug. 14 had been burning across just three acres until Saturday, when it exploded across some 3,000 acres.

On Sunday, it spread to another 1,000 acres, park officials said Monday. The fire perimeter was within a mile of the Grand Loop Road south of Mud Volcano and park officials said there was the potential for temporary closures of the road between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge Junction.

Overall, three major fires in the park have grown under the hot, dry, gusty conditions of the past four days.

“All three fires produced tall smoke columns visible for several miles in all directions. In addition, smoke from fires outside the park to the north and west in Montana and Idaho also contributed to occasionally hazy conditions at some locations at times during (Sunday),” a park release said.

Click here to read the entire story



23 Unattended Campfires Found in Natl. Forest

August 12, 2013 by · Comments Off on 23 Unattended Campfires Found in Natl. Forest 

This map from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service shows active wildfires in the U.S. The Elk Complex and Pony fires in Idaho are represented by Nos. 24 and 26, respectively.

The following is a press release from the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho:

Firefighters have discovered 23 illegal, abandoned, or escaped campfires burning on the Bitterroot National Forest in just the last seven days. Two of the fires were discovered Sunday morning (Aug. 11) off Skalkaho Highway near Gird Point Lookout and Railroad Creek, east of Hamilton. Both fires had escaped their makeshift rings and if crews had not been close by, could have quickly and easily spread to nearby grass and trees.

The Forest Service is asking for the public’s help in stopping this growing problem. It’s a major concern as fire crews are spending their time responding to and putting out abandoned campfires, which could delay responses to new wildfires that start.

More than half of the abandoned campfires were discovered outside designated/approved campgrounds, where fires are currently prohibited under Stage 1 Restrictions. See below for more details including potential penalties for this activity.

Fire Restrictions: Stage 1 fire restrictions went into effect on August 1st on the Bitterroot National Forest. Campfires are allowed only within a designated campground or recreation site which contains a Forest-provided fire ring. For a list of all designated campgrounds and recreation sites, visit the Forest website at Individuals who violate these restrictions could face fines of up to $5,000 and be held liable for all suppression costs and damages for starting a fire.

Current Fire Danger: The Bitterroot National Forest fire danger is currently ‘very high.’ Forest officials are asking the public to be extremely careful when camping and to remember that it’s your job and responsibility to properly maintain and extinguish all campfires.

Smoke & Haze: The smoke and haze that drifted into the Bitterroot Valley overnight is coming from the Pony Complex and Elk fires burning in Idaho. Combined, the two fires have grown to nearly 200,000 acres.


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