Chapter 2: Who Should You Contact After a Wildfire?
There are a few important calls you should make immediately after a wildfire. The first should be to your insurance company. You may think you shouldn’t call them until after you are back at home and have assessed the damage, but that’s not true. Don’t make that mistake. If you’re ever evacuated from your home, you should contact your insurance company immediately and let them know.
Luckily, you will not have to determine the next steps regarding your fire damage insurance claim alone. Your insurance agent will walk you through the process and let you know what information the company needs and what comes next. Your agent will be an important source of fire insurance claim tips as you go through the process.
Save all your receipts for any hotel, food and other living expenses you incur while being evacuated so the insurance company can reimburse you. Once it’s safe to return to your home, you should assess the damage and notify the insurance company in a proof of loss claim. This statement will be a part of your fire claim settlement procedure and specifies what was damaged and the value of the loss.
The insurance company will send out an inspector to assess the damage immediately after the fire. This will likely happen even if there is no obvious fire damage to your home because extreme heat and smoke can still have adverse effects on a structure.
While talking with anyone from your insurance agency or the person inspecting your home, you should take notes and write down important parts of conversations to refer to later in the process.
If You Rent Your Home, Call Your Landlord
If you rent your home, it’s important to notify your landlord of the wildfire and the damage. The landlord will then need to let their insurance company know.
Since you are renting, you should notify your renter’s insurance company to find out what your coverage is and what documents to submit for your fire damage claim. If you don’t have renter’s insurance and live in an area that could have wildfires or other natural disasters, strongly consider your policy options.
The landlord will be responsible for making sure the home gets the proper repairs, and you will need to make arrangements with them. If the damage was minimal, you might be able to return to your home quickly. However, if there was a lot of damage and the home is largely lost, you will want to begin looking for other places to live as you work with your insurance company regarding your belongings.
When you signed up for renter’s insurance, you should have made an itemized list of your belongings. You will use this list to assess which items have been damaged or destroyed. Once you have assessed the damage and itemized everything, you will give your insurance agency a write-up so they can process your claim.
Contact the American Red Cross or Other Organization If Your Family Needs Assistance
If you need assistance after a wildfire has devastated your area, the American Red Cross offers a variety of services. Some of the wildfire relief efforts include providing shelter for families, creating a recovery plan, providing medical care and serving meals.
You can contact your local Red Cross by locating one in your area, or you can find an open shelter near you. The American Red Cross works diligently to open shelters and provide relief and evacuation efforts for areas known to be impacted by wildfires. Since the Erskine fire, the American Red Cross served more than 1,600 meals and snacks to families.
Often, important papers such as passports, birth certificates and social security cards need to be replaced as soon as possible. You may have also lost physical money in the fire — if the bills are only partially burnt, save them in plastic wrap, as the U.S. Department of the Treasury or your regional Federal Reserve Bank may be able to replace them.