Hot, dry weather, erratic winds, and thirsty trees and brush can abet a
spark, enabling it to progress into an uncontrollable and dangerous wildfire.
If you have survived such a blaze, first thank your lucky stars for being able
to walk away from the consuming heat and debilitating smoke. And once the air
clears you will be faced with coming to terms with a disfigured home and taking
steps to file a claim to recover losses and begin rebuilding your life and
You may be confused about what to do after a fire.
Take your family and pets out of harm's way. The fire may
have damaged the structure or foundation of your home. Consider staying in
nearby lodging or with friends or family until the damage is fully assessed.
Your homeowner's insurance policy may cover some of these temporary living
expenses. Before you leave the scene of your home, do a quick check to make
sure that house is safe from further damage. This may mean sealing the house to
protect it from weather and from looting.
Work closely with your insurance company. Insurance
companies have set procedures to handle fire claims. And if you house was in
the path of a wildfire, you likely aren't alone. Don't hesitate in contacting
your insurance company to learn more about the procedure and to begin any
paperwork. On balance, state laws dictate the maximum time an insurance company
has to respond to your initial claim. For example, in California, the insurer
must respond in 30 days.
Assess the damages. When it's safe to return, assess
damages carefully. This is useful not only to safeguard your family from a
potentially-dangerous living situation but also to prepare for the insurance
filing. Though the insurer will send out an assessor, you may want to hire an
independent party to evaluate the damage and estimate repair costs. Then you
will at have at least two opinions on the damage and, in case you don't agree
with your insurer's estimate, you will have at least one other to compare to.
You may not agree with the insurance company's settlement
amount. Depending on the damages estimated and the settlement offer,
you may not agree. You are not obligated to close the case immediately, and in
fact, may want to wait in case you discover further fire-related damages after
the initial assessment. In that scenario, consider retaining an attorney on how
to proceed. You might also hire a public adjustor to evaluate the