As we've told you, when you've been the victim of fire you realise some things you should - or shouldn't have - done.
- First, there's bush cutting or débroussaillage - that means clearing away the undergrowth around your property which, when it's dry, quickly ignites and allows the fire to spread. This is, in fact, a legal obligation and usually the clearance must extend for 100 metres around the house. Often the work is undertaken by an association syndicale libre (enquire at the mairie). It's worth the effort and expense involved.
- Second, don't make things easy for the fire. Keep inflammable elements away from the house - vehicles and boats, for example. We had logs stacked against one wall which, afterwards, we realised was daft. And another thing - those traditional Provençal wooden shutters take fire very easily. Replace them with metal or at least have double shutters, with the metal set outside.
- Thirdly, there are things you can do to ensure that if fire threatens your property you've got the best chance of having it beaten back. There are two likely problems: absence of power and lack of water. It's worth investing in a generator or a petrol-powered pump and having an adequate water supply on site. That's a good argument for having a pool.
- Fourthly, make sure you've got good insurance and don't look for the cheapest cover available. Find a reliable broker and listen to him. We had a very good guy. And don't forget that you're allowed under most policies to have your own adjuster to fight your corner against the company who actually has to pay for him. Again, our man was excellent. What you need to do, of course, is to keep the fullest possible record of the contents of your home. You should talk to your broker about what kind of contents cover to go for. You really need to make sure you'll get a payout to fund equipping a new kitchen rather than one based on the very much discounted value of your old fridge, dishwasher and so on.- And finally, Geneviève put it well when she said that when you lose all those personal things - photos, letters, old holiday videos and so on - plus administrative documents, it's like losing your memory. It's worth stashing all those things away somewhere safe like the bank."
From Reporter Issue 102