Fireworks, love ’em or hate ’em, they’re a big part of how Iowans mark the 4th of July.

Iowa’s largest home insurer is urging everyone who plans to celebrate the holiday with a bang to use extreme caution. James Walford, a State Farm agent in Des Moines, says in addition to the risk of injury, there’s also a significant fire hazard from fireworks — and it’s vital to have your policy up-to-date.

“If you were to cause damage to your own home, that would be covered under State Farm’s property damage on your homeowner’s policy,” Walford says. “If you were to cause damage to your neighbor’s property, they would actually use their own homeowner’s coverage to cover that damage.”

If the fire damage to a home is significant, the case may quickly evolve into a lawsuit based on negligence and other factors. As far as insurance, a house fire caused by fireworks may be considered much like any other disaster that’s the result of a storm or flood.
“If my tree falls on your property, you’re using your homeowner’s policy,” Walford says. “Sometimes it comes down to, what’s your relationship with your neighbor? Is this a lawsuit thing? Is this a ‘I’ll use my policy but pay my deductible?’ so, it can get interesting.”

The way the fine print reads, the homeowner would have to pay a deductible — perhaps $500 or $1,000 — for damage to their own home that was caused by a neighbor’s fireworks.  “It can catch people by surprise,” Walford says. “I’m big on education. That’s the value of having a local agent is staying informed and understanding how your policy works.”

State Farm says there are nearly 20,000 reports of fireworks-associated fires every year nationwide and another 13,000 injuries. Last year, a northeast Iowa teenager died after setting off fireworks that exploded on the ground instead of in the air in rural Waverly.