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Preventing Fire Losses

Property damaged by fire can be a devastating loss for a municipality, with potential to cost millions of dollars.  

Fire damage is not unique to any specific type of property. It can affect buildings, fences, cars, equipment and employees too. When the heat of a fire weakens a building’s structure, structural damage can occur. Not only can fire collapse a building, but the smoke caused by fire can discolor walls and furniture. Smoke inhalation can pose a serious danger to employees as well. 

Since 2020, the South Carolina Municipal Insurance and Risk Financing Fund has received 52 fire claims totaling more than $4 million. While some fires have not been preventable, others were caused by a lack of maintenance and inspections. Many vehicle fires and electrical equipment fires, for example, are preventable with regular maintenance.  

One critical way to prevent fire-related losses due to fire is to establish a policy that addresses both maintenance and inspections for all properties and systems that can suffer fire damage. This means inspecting all vehicles, electrical systems, heating mechanisms and similar property.  

Even a properly inspected and maintained property can burn, so all buildings need to have fire suppression systems. These should be inspected annually at a minimum or semiannually if possible. It is a best practice for vehicles and heavy equipment to have fire suppression systems as well. Fire extinguishers should be inspected visually every month to ensure they are charged and have no evidence of tampering.  

When a fire involving municipal property occurs, a SCMIRF member should immediately report the claim to SCMIRF. The adjuster will need several points of information to assist with the claim: 

  • Type of loss 
  • Date of loss 
  • Loss location 
  • Current contact information, including names, phone numbers, and email addresses  
  • A full description of the loss, addressing the damage, condition of the property, contents involved and other relevant details  
  • Photographs of the loss, and video if needed 
  • Any contractual or lease agreements that may apply 
  • Any fire and police reports to assist with identifying the cause and subrogation potential 
  • Any known witnesses 
  • The names and contact information of anyone who was present when the fire occurred 
  • Any applicable news articles 

SCMIRF members should check their active policies that address fire prevention and confirm that all fire suppression systems are inspected and maintained. They should also train employees on what to do in the event of a fire. Learn more tips related to preventing large-scale fire losses in this RiskLetter article 

Equipment such as fire suppression systems can help reduce the occurrence of a property fire. SCMIRF members who purchase this equipment may apply for reimbursement from the SCMIRF Public Works Liability Reduction grant. Reimbursement for up to 50% of the cost of the equipment purchased, not to exceed a maximum benefit of $4,000 is available per member per year. A budget of $100,000 has been allocated for the 2024 calendar year. The funds will be available on a first-come, first-served beginning February 1, 2024. 

For additional guidance or information on fire prevention, contact loss control staff at