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Canadian wildfires: 'I don't think anyone in Nova Scotia slept at all'

An Allstate agency owner jumped into action when the Tantallon fire started close to her Halifax agency – monitoring alerts, gathering supplies and working alongside her colleagues to help the community through the aftermath of devastating wildfires.

Fire spreading through trees in a forest.

Canada is dealing with its worst wildfire season on record, with the Tantallon fire being one of the worst in Nova Scotia in over 40 years.

July 20, 2023

Danielle Dillman had never worked through a wildfire before.

When she saw the smoke – and alerts from Allstate Canada's National Catastrophe Team about evacuations in Nova Scotia and how to prepare – she got ready. The Tantallon fire had started just 10 miles from the Halifax agency she manages.

A few weeks earlier in Canada's Alberta province, the CAT Team had over a week's notice to monitor wildfires before they were declared a catastrophe, according to Lynn Borchuk, manager, National Catastrophe, Claims.

But this time, shifting weather patterns blew the Nova Scotia fire more quickly. "We had less than 24 hours for this one," Borchuk said. "Mother Nature is unpredictable."

Dillman monitored her phone for alerts all night.

"Sunday evening, I don't think anyone in Nova Scotia slept at all."

Ready before the smoke cleared

The next morning, Dillman picked up water, muffins, donuts and cellphone chargers. She packed clothes to donate – whatever people might need. She posted on social media that her agency would be a comfort center for customers or anyone else who needed it.

The CAT Team was already organized and sending information and tips to adjusters, agencies and local contractors to prepare them to meet with customers who might have lost everything and begin the rebuilding process. Field adjusters drove to the area and awaited assignments.

"A fire CAT is not like any other catastrophe," said Kristy Evers, team lead, National Catastrophe, Claims. "People are evacuated from their homes, and then they go back to a skeleton."

At the Halifax agency, Dillman and her staff answered people's questions and got them started on claims if needed. One of her sales agents had been evacuated from his home and was looking for a place to stay with his family.

At that point, she said, "People didn't know if their homes had been damaged or not."

Allstate Canada's blog gives customers some helpful tips for preventing a wildfire.


The damage, and the dedication to help rebuild

Two days later, much of the wildfire damage had been done. The fire burned through a lot of newer subdivisions, and came close to 6 miles from the Halifax agency, according to Dillman.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada established a camp at the local Canada Games Center for people to go with their insurance questions. Dillman and four Claims employees set up an Allstate Canada Group table, where they were stationed for eight days, helping people and giving out water, fruit and coloring pages for kids.

"The first few days we were seeing 20 to 30 clients a day," Dillman said. "Saturday and Sunday it doubled."

Learning and leading with empathy

Danielle dillman and glen rose.

Dillman was able to learn through the process—watching Glen Rose, a field manager in auto and property claims.

"He was the most empathetic person," she said. "He made clients feel like they mattered."

Working side by side with Rose and other claims specialists, she said, "you see the empathy, the care and how they go above and beyond."

Dillman was especially impacted by a woman with no hair who came in with her husband. She learned that this woman was battling cancer. Her wigs, bought with money her community had raised for her, burned in the fire.

It was heavy going home to my house with my kids, knowing so many didn't have that option. Being able to help even a little bit makes you feel better.

Danielle Dillman
Halifax agency owner


Field adjusters met with customers who could return to their homes to assess the damage and begin their claims. Many customers were relieved to hear how much they were covered and that in some cases their deductible would be waived.

"Our CAT Team adjusters are there through it all. They become therapists. They do everything they can," Evers said.

And much of the country is still dealing with its worst wildfire season on record.

"The wildfires we've seen this year in parts of Canada have been devastating, but I'm so proud of the way the Allstate Canada team has come together to help customers and each other as these catastrophes unfolded," said Troy Hawkes, executive vice president and general manager of Allstate Property-Liability Sales and Distribution.

Allstate's Catastrophe Team

Allstate's National Catastrophe Team can guide customers through the claims process as quickly and smoothly as possible, so they can start moving on with their lives.

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