3 On Your Side: Prepare before wildfires strike

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Most wildfires, like the one near Yarnell, Ariz., happen so quickly that homeowners are caught off guard.

So, 3 On Your Side contacted Allstate Insurance and spoke with Chelci Vaughn who told us this latest disaster is a wake up call for everyone. 

"I can't even imagine how hard it is to lose everything," Vaughn said thinking about the homeowners when they're allowed to return back to their houses.

Vaughn said before a wildfire is even sparked, homeowners should take look at their property.

If you see dry brush and other flammable landscaping, rake that stuff out of there and get it at least 30 feet or more from your house. That could minimize any fire damage.

When homeowners are allowed back, they should look for damage, even if it's not visible.

Vaughn said look it over good. "Is there heat damage to the perimeter? Is there an odor? Is there smoke damage? Things like that."

The good news is homeowners don't need special insurance policies when living in areas prone to wildfires and that regular home insurance is usually sufficient coverage.

Nevertheless, you still need to be prepared in case you have to evacuate in future wildfires.

If that happens, Vaughn recommends collecting all important documents in advance. Birth certificates, insurance policies, forms of identification are all crucial to have.

Also, take as many photos as you can inside and outside your home. Photographing what you own is just smart. 

"If you have photos of that stuff, it makes the claim process so much easier and smoother over all," Vaughn said.