Controlling Your Liability on Controlled Burns

By TE Cunningham

It’s that time of year. Spring is in the air, and so is the smell of, uh, fire.  That’s right, out on the plains and hills of the Midwest, controlled burns are being implemented to help manage weeds, brush and unwanted growth.

According to Massive Science, prescribed burning, in which wildfires are deliberately set to targeted areas, has proven an effective and safe technique for reducing the intensity and spread of natural wildfires since the Forest Service began the practice in 1995.

This effort can help reduce the risk of fires in rural areas, but just as importantly for farmers and ranchers – it helps restore nutrients to lead to desirable plant growth for the coming season.

Prairies, wetlands and woodlands across the country are home to controlled burns, sometimes as often as once per year.

But what happens when a farmer or rancher has a controlled or prescribed burn become “out of control” and damage or nuisance is incurred?  They incur losses, and that’s why insurance is so important.

On a standard farm owners policy, if a farmer is burning and the fire gets out of control, the farmer would have automatic coverage on their general liability policy if found negligent. This does not require a special endorsement or coverage line to be selected on that policy, although more detailed offerings may be available.  

If you are hiring someone to perform your controlled burns on your behalf or you are doing them for another individual, you will want to visit with your agent specifically about the situation to make sure you are covered as well.

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