January 26, 2022

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Is Smoking Out the Snakes and Burning Down the House Covered?

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In one of the more bizarre causes of loss, owners of a million-dollar house tried to rid the home of snakes by “smoking them out.” Unfortunately, they burned down their home in the process. The person bringing me this crazy story asked if the loss is covered.

The story, Maryland Homeowners Burned Down Their Home While Attempting to Rid the House of Snakes, reported by CNN, indicates in part:

A house of nearly 10,000 square feet in Dickerson, Maryland, an hour west of Baltimore, was engulfed in flames on November 23 when the homeowner tried to smoke out a snake infestation on the property, Pete Piringer, chief spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service, told CNN.

Piringer said snakes had been an ongoing issue for this owner and the previous tenant as well.

Coals were used as the heat source for the smoke, but they were placed too close to combustible materials, eventually setting the house on fire, Piringer explained.

The fire started in the basement and quickly spread through each floor, engulfing the multistory home…

The damages will cost more than $1 million, Piringer said. The house was recently purchased for $1.8 million, according to public records.

The fire department deemed the incident an accident as there was no evidence, or intention, of starting the fire.

To determine coverage, what is the first step? Read the policy. I do not have the policy, and I am going to skip the entire discussion about snake damage or removal being covered.

Regarding the fire, accidentally caused fires are generally covered under all-risk policies. These happen all the time. An intentionally set fire with the intent to cause fire damage to the home is not covered.

The more difficult issue is the smoke which was intentionally placed into the structure to kill or force the removal of the snakes. I assume the smoke damaged the house before the accidental fire burned it down. It is hard to imagine how one could not anticipate that the smoke would not damage the home. However, given the selected manner of snake removal, it is clear these people are not members of Mensa. The ignorance factor must be quite high.

Perhaps the best argument on the smoke damage is to take a depreciation on the amount that could be covered when the replacement is made.

I will follow up on this matter later with a greater coverage analysis. But, for a Saturday, just the bizarre story is one to share.

Thought For The Day

Stupid is as Stupid Does
—Forrest Gump

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