How Property Insurance Helped Victims After The Great Chicago Fire
Published: July 10, 2021
When the worst imaginable disasters strike, insurance can be there to aid in the recovery process. For example, after the Great Chicago Fire wreaked havoc on the city in 1871, hundreds of dead and thousands of buildings were destroyed. Though the fire was devastating, victims relied on essential coverage like property insurance to help them get back to their lives.
What Was the Impact of the Great Chicago Fire?
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 only burned for three days, from October 8th through October 10th, 1871. However, that was more than long enough to cause a great deal of destruction. Several theories exist as to what caused the start of the fire, which originated in resident Catherine O’Leary’s barn. The actual cause of the fire remains unknown, but the impact of the catastrophe is still observed today.
Some stats about the Great Chicago Fire:
- An estimated 300 deaths reported
- An estimated $200 million in damage reported (nearly $4 billion today)
- The fire affected an area almost four miles long and one mile wide
- Several months of drought left the town vulnerable to fire
- 17,450 buildings destroyed
- 100,000 people were left homeless
- About one-third of the city and its population were affected.
Who Provided Help to the Victims of the Great Chicago Fire?
Chicago received $5 million in donations from around the world to help the recovery. In addition, former Chicago Mayor Roswell B. Mason, Common Council President Charles C.P. Holden, and a group of elected officials and respected residents formed a Relief Committee following the fire to organize and distribute food, essential supplies, and money to victims of the fire.
How Did Property Insurance Help Victims Get Back to Their Lives?
Fortunately for victims, property insurance helped them to rebuild their lives. Property insurance coverage provided relief to fire victims in the following ways:
- Rebuilding homes and ending homelessness: Property insurance pays to rebuild homes if they are destroyed by a covered peril such as a fire. For the 100,000 fire victims who were left temporarily homeless, property insurance coverage provided the financial assistance necessary to rebuild their homes, as well as reimburse for fees associated with temporary housing.
- Replacing personal property: Property insurance also helped fire victims to replace, repair, and recover from lost, damaged, stolen, or destroyed personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, silverware, etc. Property insurance typically covers personal property up to 50% to 70% of the insured value of the home’s structure if it’s lost, damaged, or destroyed by a fire.
- Replacing greenery outside homes: Property coverage also includes reimbursement for foliage around the home, including trees, plants, and shrubs if they are damaged or destroyed by a fire. Today, limits typically cap at $500 per plant, but coverage amounts can be increased. Victims of the Great Chicago Fire were able to repair their gardens thanks to property insurance.
- Though you’ll likely never be a victim of a fire that destroys one-third of your town, it’s still good to know all the ways property insurance helped those impacted by the Great Chicago Fire understand what this coverage can do for you.
Is Fire Coverage Part of Every Homeowners Policy?
Naturally, fire is one of the main perils covered by homeowners insurance. Standard homeowners policies across the map include coverage for damage and liabilities caused by fires. The fire protection included in homeowners insurance covers not only the structure of the home but also personal property stored inside of it and detached structures like sheds or garages.
Homeowners insurance also includes coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) if you’re forced to temporarily live elsewhere while awaiting repairs to your home. Coverage provided by ALE would apply to stays in hotel rooms, meals out, extra gas mileage, and more.
No matter where you’re located in the country, your homeowners’ policy should automatically include protection against fire damage since fires are one of the main concerns insurance companies have. But without homeowners insurance, victims of a fire like the Great Chicago Fire would have to pay for the damage out of pocket. So talk to your insurance agent to get your home set up with all the coverage it needs against fires and other disasters.