East Troublesome Fire victim, attorney offer advice to those who’ve lost homes in Marshall fire
Thursday night’s destructive fire in Boulder County has conjured up difficult memories for Grand County residents still recovering from last year’s East Troublesome Fire.
Authorities said Friday that the Marshall fire may have destroyed as many as 1,000 homes east of Boulder in the 6,000-acre fire that was fanned by wind gusts up to 110 miles per hour on Thursday. Superior and south Louisville were hardest hit, and Boulder County is hoping a light snow that moved in Friday will help firefighters.
The similarities to October 2020’s East Troublesome Fire, which burned hundreds of homes in one night before eventually being calmed by a much-needed snow, is impossible to ignore. Marjorie Cranston, who lost her home in the East Troublesome Fire, said she has been reliving that traumatic night with the Boulder County community.
“The heart breaks more because you have lived that story and nightmare,” she said.
Recalling that the first morning after evacuating the East Troublesome Fire, Cranston remembered that all she wanted was a toothbrush. She didn’t have one.
After navigating the insurance and rebuilding process, she wanted to offer what advice she had to the victims of the Marshall fire feeling just as lost Friday.
“There are probably a lot of people there that don’t know what to do, that don’t know what to do with their insurance,” she said. “They don’t know who to call. They may not have money. That’s kind of No. 1 is to call your insurance company after you get through that first night.”
Attorney Natascha O’Flaherty with McDonough Law has helped a number of clients, including Cranston, navigate the insurance process since losing their homes in the East Troublesome Fire. She said her best advice for the Marshall fire victims is to contact their insurance company and be aware of their rights and what their insurance policy covers.
While victims are likely still reeling from the loss, she advised them to start looking immediately for somewhere to live and to start documenting all expenses. Cranston reflected those statements, encouraging fire victims to advocate for themselves.
“They’re in for a long ride down there — because it’s been a long ride here,” Cranston said.
Fourteen months after losing her home, Cranston and her husband are in the process of rebuilding. She said the message she most wanted to share with the Marshall fire victims was one of hope.
“There’s always hope,” Cranston said. “There’s always hope and you have to hang on to every bit of it that you can muster up. If you don’t have it, you hang on to other people that do.”
Donations to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund can be made at CommFound.org/grants/get-grant/Boulder-County-Wildfire-Fund.
Attorney Natascha O’Flaherty with McDonough Law has helped a number of clients navigating the insurance process following the destruction of their homes in the East Troublesome Fire. Below is her advice for initial steps for those who lost a home in the Boulder County fires:
1. Contact your insurance carrier to let them know about your loss and begin the claim process;
2. Get a claim number and the contact information for the adjuster on your claim;
3. Request a copy of your insurance policy — by statute it must be provided within 72 hours;
4. Request in writing a certified copy of your policy — by statute it must be provided within 30 days;
5. Save all your receipts since evacuation: hotel, restaurants, food, clothing, pet supplies and necessities;
6.If it is a primary residence, per statute the carrier must offer to pay 30% of the contents without an inventory. (Additional amounts can then be claimed by submitting a written inventory of items lost.). This money can help families fund the costs of replacing items immediately needed;
7. Save receipts of all items purchased. Scan receipts into a computer file or keep a box with the actual receipts;
8. Find and secure housing. It may be 12-18 months or more until your home can be rebuilt. Check with your adjuster on ALE (additional living expense) coverage. Things to ask your adjuster:
a. What amount of coverage do you have and for how long do you have coverage — typically coverages are 12-24 months.
b. Will the insurance company pay for your rental home? Or will your insurance company pay you the monthly fair market value of the home you lost so you can buy an interim home or condo while you rebuild your home? Or will the insurance company pay the full ALE coverage out at this time for you to use at your discretion?
*To have a successful ALE claim, pull comparisons on rental prices for a home similar the home you lost to the fire. Be aware that rental prices may surge due to demand after a fire.
It is prudent to open a separate bank account for all insurance proceeds. It is also helpful to have a credit card that is only used for fire claim related purchases and expenditures to assist with tracking covered and reimbursable expenses.
Bottom line — know your rights and know what your policy covers.
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