With the Tea Fire contained, the issue of what to do about the homes destroyed in the blaze has taken top priority for many. Those who lost their homes must now navigate the maze of insurance claims, permitting procedures, and contractor selection that can be part of the recovery process-and that’s not to mention the mystery of any restrictions on materials, style, and location that may apply to those attempting to rebuild in the zones that burned. The good news is that city and county officials are working with area nonprofits to provide information and resources. The bad news is that more than 200 homes were destroyed, so rebuilding all of them may take a while. State Assemblymember Pedro Nava announced this week that the insurance claim process will be expedited, too, and county officials have made similar statements about their permitting process.
Officials are urging people who lost their homes to start soon in order to expedite insurance claims, get a contractor before they are all tied up, and clear burned properties of debris before rainy season. A Tea Fire Local Assistance Center has been set up at the Davis Center, located at 1232 De la Vina Street, complete with city and county officials, insurance experts, rental gurus, and other informational sources. Residents can visit the center from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. until Friday.
For both homeowners and renters, filing insurance claims can be tricky. One group, CARe, Inc., guides homeowners through the complex process. Its staffers have themselves been the victims of fire damage or loss and therefore offer Tea Fire victims the benefit of their experience.
Insurance companies already have begun dealing with claims, and, according to Nava, are required to pay Additional Living Expenses (ALE) to fund expenses of people displaced by destroyed homes or mandatory evacuations. As is CARe, insurance agents are encouraging clients to itemize the contents of their homes. “When you’re in a stressful situation like this, it’s hard to recall what’s in the house, room by room, but you have to itemize,” said Susan Rodriguez, the branch president of Brown & Brown. Greg Shurlock, a public affairs representative for State Farm Insurance, said that if policy holders haven’t been contacted already-some no longer have telephones-they should call their insurance agent. “We’ll get them working with their agent and a claim rep and get them funds ASAP,” he said.