Have You Been Affected by the Local Fires? Here’s Resources for How to Address Fire Damage and More
In many areas of the country, the thought of losing one’s house to a fire sounds far-fetched and somewhat unlikely. But, here in San Diego, residents have become all too familiar with the dangers associated with wildfires and structure fires. The fear is real, and we’re reminded of it too often in San Diego County and Southern California in general. This article comes at a time when fires are ravaging Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, as the Thomas fire burns 230,000 acres of land and has affected 750 buildings throughout the area. And less than 10 miles from the office where Sell Your House Direct is located, the Lilac fire burned over 4,000 acres, relocated thousands of residents (including employees), and burned through hundreds of homes. These natural disasters are no stranger to Californians, and the struggle hits close to home for many of us.
With that, we’d like to provide some resources to those who may have been affected. As if losing a home isn’t enough, many people lose most of their belongings as well. Wildfires in San Diego County have been known to spread at a rapid rate due to the amount of dry brush and opportune weather, specifically when the Santa Ana winds are blowing, and just don’t allow enough time to save your belongings. If you, or someone you know, has been affected by a local fire then a) our hearts are with you during this traumatic time and b) be sure to utilize all of the resources and aid available to you. Here are some items we have found to be useful to fire victims:
Steps to Take After Your Home Has Been Damaged by a Fire
- Take care of yourself: This may sound obvious, but make sure to take care of yourself and your family. This is a traumatic situation and beginning by ensuring you’ll have a safe place to live while things are sorted out is of the utmost importance. Reach out to a family member nearby who you can stay with, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a local disaster relief service like the American Red Cross. They can be great resources in helping you locate lodging and determine next best steps. Get plenty of rest and maybe most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Tend to your pets: Pets can be very negatively affected by natural disasters, just as humans are. They may be more anxious and on edge than usual, and it’s not uncommon for them to bite or act out in fear. Try to leave them with a family member if you can to ensure they are in a safe environment with less commotion.
- Follow safety precautions: Do not enter your fire-damaged home unless deemed safe to do so by the fire department. Do not try to turn utilities back on by yourself if the fire department has turned off. Wait it out until you get clearance from officials.
- Contact your insurance agent: Don’t assume that the fire department will report that your home has been damaged to insurance. You will need to call them right away to determine what to do first. Many insurance companies will ask you to provide a list of everything that has been damaged by the fire, and in detail. If you know how much you paid for them, that will be important as well. If you DON’T have insurance, here are some companies that may be able to help get you back on your feet:
- American Red Cross
- Salvation Army
- Religious Organizations
- Public Agencies
- Community Groups
- State Emergency Services Office
- Other Non-Profits
- What to expect from Insurance? If you have homeowner’s insurance and the loss or damage sustained is covered under replacement cost coverage, then your insurance will cover the cost of your repairs (minus excluded property and your deductible). If your home has been completely destroyed, but you have a “loss of use or additional living expense” policy, then you will be covered in maintaining your standard of living while enduring this loss/during the transition. So, if you live in a mansion, your insurance will actually cover something to rent that’s comparable.
- Contact your lender: It’s also very important that you get in touch with your mortgage lender or landlord immediately. If you lost credit cards in the fire, it would be wise to consult with credit card companies as well and inquire about receiving emergency replacements. Save all receipts that you can because you will later be able to use those to prove losses claimed on your tax return. Don’t expect that you can simply stop paying your mortgage. But, if you contact your lender, they may be able to create special arrangements given your situation.
- Important Documents: If your home is still standing, attempt to find as many of your important documents as you can (birth certificates, social security cards, Titles to deeds etc.).
- Contact IRS: Check with an accountant or the IRS about any special benefits or help available to people who are suffering and trying to recover from loss due to a fire.
- Assessing the damage: Begin assessing the damage, but be careful and remember only to enter your home if the Fire Department says that it’s safe. Whether the damage is irreversible and your home is completely burned down, or you can hire a professional cleaning service and repair contractor to repair the damage, consult with professionals.
For a full list of references and checklists, visit FEMA’s website.
Additional fire disaster relief resources in San Diego:
FYI: If you’d like to talk with someone at our company about selling or even potential in repairing your home before you sell, we’re happy to be a resource. But, take your time. You will be dealing with a lot in the coming months in getting things settled and arranged with your insurance company, and you don’t want to act too soon. Consider all of your options, and let those who are able to help you. No one can really truly prepare for a disaster like a home burning down. If you have found yourself in this situation, we send our condolences and hope you’re able to acquire help from your family and the community. Again, don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help in any way by connecting you with the right people or resources.