Where There’s Smoke, There’s Claims

It’s official. Canada is having its worst wildfire season in recorded history.

By Michelle Curtis

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While the Canadian wildfires took a toll during the 2023 disaster season, plently of U.S.-based catastrophes also affected millions of Americans. Read more on NICB's support of the devastating Maui wildfire.

Starting in March and perpetuated in June, the cross-country Canadian wildfires were still burning into the summer and began adversely affecting the U.S. as well. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, as of early August, over 5,000 fires were recorded since the beginning of the year with more than 1,000 being active, and of that active number, just over 650 are deemed out of control with over 200 under control. An astounding 32 million acres of land have burned year-to-date.

With a wildfire season typically ending in October, the situation north of the border could continue to progress well into the fall. This is especially true as many of the fires are being left alone due to their low impact against people and infrastructure as well as the lack of firefighting resources available. 

While the Canadian wildfire response agencies are tirelessly battling the most-threatening blazes at their roots, Canada, the U.S., and even further out to parts of Europe are engulfed in a battle to breathe fresh air. Hazardous smoke from the Canadian wildfires made its way initially down into the U.S. northern states and then continued its path south and west, affecting more states and major metropolitan areas of Chicago, New York, and everything in between. And the smoke even crossed the Atlantic.  

NASA’s Terra satellite captured imagery on June 26 showing the plume of black carbon particles, or soot, reaching parts of Spain and Portugal. It’s expected that the dangerous air quality levels likely will not affect individuals overseas as the smoke is much higher in the atmosphere. However, for those in the Midwest and Eastern U.S., the effects have been felt. An estimated more than 100 million people were under air quality alerts in late June. Images circulating around the news and social media show hazy, yellowish hued skies thick with smoke residue. And to fraudsters? Those same images show opportunity. 

No doubt fraud-minded individuals and groups have already plotted ways to expunge insurance companies of funds from the after-effects of these massive wildfires. Since air quality from smoke is of most concern for the U.S., claims related to smoke inhalation or smoke damage to property could see their way into the claims system.
NICB wants to remind members and law enforcement that there are educational opportunities and materials that are offered—often at no cost—to combat issues related to fire and smoke.
“NICB has a wealth of training on arson, general fire, and smoke and ash claims that members and our law enforcement partners should be aware of,” said Jim Berry, Vice President of Learning and Development. “Our educational offerings include instructor-led virtual courses, on-demand eLearning, and several specialized academies throughout the year. We also provide curriculum tailored toward workers’ compensation claimant fraud.” 

NICB develops and continually refines anti-fraud resources that can be accessed at times, locations and from devices most convenient for learners. Our learning and development methodologies are reshaping how NICB members and law enforcement agencies learn to fight insurance fraud and vehicle theft crimes. 

While we can’t fight fire with fire, per se, we can educate those dedicated to fighting insurance fraud and crime so they can smoke out fictitious claims.


Phillips, A. (2023, June 30). Canada Wildfires Are Still Burning—Why and When Will it End? https://www.newsweek.com/canada-wildfires-burning-why-explainer-1810132

Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. (2023, June 29). Wildfire Dashboard. https://ciffc.net/  

Elassar, A. (2023, July 1). Smoke will keep pouring into the US as long as fires are burning in Canada. Here’s why they aren’t being put out. https://www.cnn.com/2023/07/01/us/canada-wildfire-smoke-us-air-quality/index.html

NASA Earth Observatory. (2023, June 26). Canadian Smoke Reaches Europe. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/151507/canadian-smoke-reaches-europe

Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800.TEL.NICB (800.835.6422) or submitting a form on our website.

About the National Insurance Crime Bureau: Headquartered in Oak Brook, Ill., the NICB is the nation's leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. The NICB is supported by more than 1,200 property and casualty insurance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $582 billion in insurance premiums in 2021, or more than 82% of the nation's property-casualty insurance. That includes more than 96% of the nation's personal auto insurance. To learn more, visit www.nicb.org.