Igniting on November 8th near Simi Valley, the Woolsey Fire spread to nearly 100,000 acres over a two week period before firefighters were able to confirm full containment. Within two days of the fire, 300,000 residents from Los Angeles County and Ventura County were prompted to evacuate the area, leaving them questioning the condition of the home they would be able to return to at an undetermined date. Ravaging its way through California’s chaparral-covered steep canyons, Woolsey Fire showed no mercy as it set ablaze historical filming sets, ranches, and homes.
As the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department continue to lift evacuations, residents are urged to stay vigilant and proactive when returning to their neighborhoods as the surrounding landscape may have changed and could cause dangerous flooding and debris flows in unexpected areas. With reports of 1,643 structures that have been destroyed and an additional 364 structures suffering from fire damage, affected residents still struggle to return to evaluate damage as the counties continue infrastructure repairs.
If you were affected by the South California Woolsey Fire please consider these steps:
Contact your home insurance agency
After contacting your family and friends to let them know you are safe, the next call you should make as a homeowner should be to your insurance agency. It is imperative to begin the documentation process as soon as possible in order to begin your insurance claim. The earlier you start this process, the earlier you’ll be able to receive some type of monetary relief, which for most people will be how they are able to sustain themselves until they can get back on their feet. Insurance companies are also able to lend guidance to what will happen going forward and what types of timelines to expect for aid.
If you do not have access to your policy it is important to ask your insurer for a copy in order to review what will be covered and what policy limits you are entitled to. Although insurers will likely send a substantial check quickly to pay for initial immediate expenses, many homeowners will quickly realize they are underinsured for an entire cleanup and complete rebuild of their homes. Having a clear understanding of what is covered and how much it is covered for will allow for rational planning of your future.
Contact local and federal agencies for assistance
There are many local disaster relief agencies in the area and federal disaster relief agencies actively seeking out individuals and families in need of assistance.
- Visit the L.A. County Recovers: Woolsey Fire Resources page for guidance intended to help streamline the recovery process. (link to https://www.lacounty.gov/woolseyfire/?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=)
- Contact your local Red Cross. While they may have their hands full, the Red Cross continues to provide individual aid to thousands of needy families along with aid to groups and neighborhoods. The Red Cross also urges families in the area to register on their Safe and Well website (link to https://safeandwell.communityos.org/zf/safe/add) in order to let loved ones know you are out of the danger zone.
- Use the RedCross.com (link to http://www.redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery-services/find-an-open-shelter ) website to find local shelters in your area.
- Apply to the DisasterAssistance.Gov website ( link to www.disasterassistance.gov ) for FEMA assistance and use their Recovery Help page ( link to https://www.disasterassistance.gov/get-assistance/other-recovery-help ) for lists of informational resources.
- Use the NICB GIC Pre/Post Disaster Analysis tool to see if your address was affected. (link to https://maps.geointel.org/app/gic-public/)
Document your losses and expenses
As insurance companies evaluate thousands of policies during these wildfires, homeowners are faced with the daunting process of recouping their losses. While insurers’ capital, also affected by recent wildfires, continues to spread thinner and thinner throughout each policy, the speed for policy reimbursement will also likely be slowed. Having as much documentation prepared early will allow for faster reimbursements and final settlements.
Keeping all of your possessions itemized before a wildfire damages your home may be a hindsight thought at this point so it is important to take time to record whatever is still readily available. Be mindful of the fact that insurers will only pay out for what you can prove that you owned as many people look to take advantage of the system. If you’re missing complete records of everything you lost, which is the majority of those affected, you will need to be creative in order to produce as many records as possible.
- Check your history of purchases through websites you frequent such as Amazon, Home Depot and NewEgg.
- Call department stores to see if they have copies of receipts available in their systems.
- Comb through your bank and credit card statements for all viable purchases you can report.
- Examine older photos of your home at you have access to as most insurers will accept photos as proof of ownership.
Many individuals are scrambling to find necessities to keep them afloat while they struggle to find long-term shelter. Between paying for temporary living expenses, food, hygiene products, clothes, transportation costs, and everything else it is easy to become overwhelmed and lose track of expenses. Home insurers cover all of these expenses so keeping an organized and detailed list will help recuperate these purchases.
Speak with contractors about estimates before accepting insurance payouts
California insured homeowners are entitled to dispute their settlements up to two years after receiving compensation, however, understanding what it will take financially to rebuild your home early will allow for a speedy and methodical plan of action.
Homeowner insurers will provide scope of loss reports to outline their payout structures, having an established contracting agency in the area look over the report to give a second opinion before accepting the settlement to ensure the numbers correlate with current construction costs is a must.
The contracting agency may argue that with current demand and surge to costs of material, the insurer’s price may not be enough for a complete build with the same quality. Reputable contractors will have prices per square footage for a new build that will give you a general estimate of what it will cost to get back to where you were.
Accepting a settlement after a second opinion from a contractor will save time, effort, and money by having to go through the initial construction process only once rather than accepting the first offer insurers provide then having to dispute after construction planning has been done.
Completing over three hundred projects in the last four years, Kanler Construction has distinguished itself in the industry by providing concierge-style service at cost-efficient prices. At Kanler we value our reputation within the community above all and we back it with our one year warranty on all our projects.
We are committed to rebuilding our community and will help work with you to make sure you’re covered for what was lost.
Use the form below to request more information on how Kanler can help after a disaster.