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Updated February 1, 2021

 Summary: Although fire insurance has been accepted as a routine form of protection for many generations, “fire” has never been defined in any standard insurance policy insuring against the peril of fire, or in any form or endorsement commonly used with the contract. The same is true of the many other insurance forms that refer to fire in one way or another—in an exclusion, condition, or deductible. Because insurers have not defined the policy language related to this peril, the issue of what types of fire losses are covered and what are not has been developing in court decisions since the early nineteenth century. This article offers a general discussion of the issue. Some of the cases cited in this article are old, but they are still valid law and form the basis upon which today’s acceptance of coverage due to fire loss is anchored.

Topics covered:

A brief history

Elements of fire

Friendly fire

Excessive fire

The temporal standard

Reasonable expectations

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