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State Dept. of Insurance Advises Butte Fire Evacuees

San Andreas, CA — As the Calaveras Local Assistance Center (CLAC) begins assisting Butte Fire evacuees at the beginning of the recovery stages, a state agency watchdog weighs in.

Deputy Insurance Commissioner Bryon Tucker confirms that the State Dept. of Insurance has representatives available at the center now through Monday, where, as previously reported, many other state agencies are on hand to help victims recover from the disaster.

Tucker advises that the first step for residents is to contact their insurer, who will take over the process and begin providing documentation to help process their claims. As it is provided under many homeowners’ policies, Tucker reminds affected residents they may, too, be entitled to Additional Living Expenses (ALE) for miscellaneous expenses incurred during their evacuation, including shelter and food costs. He encourages consumers, if they have any issues, questions, or if they are confused or overwhelmed by the process to call the department, which provides an expert staff standing by, ready to help them navigate their way through the challenges.

Insurers And ‘Watchdog’ Onsite

“We are definitely a consumer advocate for the residents who have been displaced or suffered losses,” Tucker explains. “However, the first step should be with their insurance company, if they have coverage. Most of the insurance companies have units onsite [at the county assistance center] to assist residents,” he points out. He urges those with questions and consumers who are not getting the answers they want from their insurance company to contact the Department of Insurance at 800 927-HELP (4357).

At the assistance center Tucker says there will also be information for those who are have not experienced a loss but are currently uninsured because their property is harder to find coverage for due to proximity to wildland areas. Under the state’s Fair Plan Association, which acts as an insurer of last resort, coverage is available. For details, call 800 339-4099.

As repopulation begins, Tucker advises, first and foremost, residents should not begin to pay for anything before getting the official go ahead from their insurance company. Additionally, folks should know, he says, “The department has a Disaster Assistance Response (DAR) team of law enforcement investigators that work in disaster zones…they help ensure that contractors working to restore properties are properly licensed.” Ahead of rebuilding, homeowners should not be pressured into signing contracts for work without knowing exactly what they are signing up for. “The rebuilding process should be slow and deliberate — don’t rush into anything until you know exactly what you’re doing,” he states.

Calaveras County Sets Path Forward

While recovery from the Butte Fire, for many Calaveras County residents, continues to focus on immediate needs, the county is already providing sight paths for those who will be rebuilding.

Already, the county is providing advisory information on the topic. County planning alerts those hoping to rebuild on an existing foundation that an analysis by a California licensed structural or civil engineer will be required. The results, provided with stamped documents supporting the findings, will then need to be submitted to the Calaveras County Building Department for plan review and permit processing. Structures lost in a fire or other catastrophic means must also be designed to meet the most current adopted California building codes. Partially damaged structures may well also require evaluation, based on the extent of necessary repairs.

With regard to relief for farms and ranches, the US Department of Agriculture states there are several resources available. To learn more, click here.