More than 500 homes have been destroyed in the Black Forest fire.
While the effects of the catastrophic wildfire on insurance rates has yet to be determined, Summit County officials are urging residents to be proactive when it comes to insuring their homes.
“As we’ve seen in recent fires throughout Colorado, sometimes Mother Nature unfortunately has her way, and we just might not be able to stop a big, fast-moving fire, despite all of our efforts,” said Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Lipsher. “It’s one of the realities of living in a wildfire-prone area.”
“The last line of defense for property owners, then, is to be insured adequately to allow them to rebuild and return,” he said.
Because having adequate insurance coverage is so critical, Forest Health Task Force members said they will devote their entire June 19 meeting to answering homeowners’ insurance questions.
Local State Farm agents Jim Galt and Leslie Wiese will be present at the meeting at 7 p.m. tonight for part five of the homeowners wildfire series. Kelly Campbell, the Denver-based regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, will also be on-hand to answer questions.
“I think it’s always important to have a really good relationship with your insurance agent,” said Forest Health Task Force member Howard Hallman. “They are the people on the frontline that, hopefully, have experience with claims in the past.
“They can make your insurance money go the furthest and hopefully can make sure there aren’t any surprises if something does happen,” he said.
Homeowners insurance policies vary greatly, Forest Health Task Force members said. It’s important for every homeowner to be proactive and learn the details of his or her policy, and to properly document valuables and personal property.
“People assume if something does happen they are going to be fully insured, and the insurance companies will show up right away,” Hallman said.
That’s not necessarily the case Not all insurance policies provide the full replacement value for all structures. Also, valuables in the home need to be documented to meet the standards of individual insurance companies.
When it comes to replacing the contents of a home, insurance policyholders have a “burden of proof,” said Wiese, who will be present at tonight’s meeting.
“That is one of the No. 1 frustrations homeowners have when they file a claim,” she said.
In some ways, having a wildfire nearby can be a relationship-builder for homeowners and insurance agents.
“We invite people every year to come in and talk about their policy,” she said. “When there is a wildfire burning in the state people start responding.”
Hallman, from the Forest Health Task Force, encourages Summit County residents to be proactive, so they know what is required of them before disaster occurs.
“It’s important to talk to your agent and make sure you know what needs to be documented and how to do it the right way,” he said. “It goes back to understanding what your policy actually covers.”
Another point of concern for local homeowners is the possibility of a hike in insurance rates as a result of the loss of homes due to wildfires in the state, Hallman said.
“We should understand there are some questions that just haven’t been answered,” he said. “But it’s important for people to be informed so they can express their point of view to, hopefully, influence policy makers and insurance brokers in the future.”