Wildfire Relief Funding May Be Available to Many SoCal Evacuees, Even if Home Is Not Damaged

The nearly 100,000 Southern California residents forced to evacuate their homes in this week’s wildfires may be able to get relief funds from their insurance provider even if their home is unscathed, state officials said Friday.

The Thomas Fire burns behind houses in Ojai on Dec. 7, 2017. (Credit: AFP PHOTO / Kyle Grillot)

The Thomas Fire burns behind houses in Ojai on Dec. 7, 2017. (Credit: AFP PHOTO / Kyle Grillot)

Many insurance policies allow homeowners and renters to recoup evacuation and relocation costs, and in many cases no deductible is required, according to the California Department of Insurance.

Those affected should check whether they have additional living expense coverage, or ALE, which typically includes the costs of food, housing, transportation, furniture rental, relocation and storage, officials said.

“Insurance coverage is meant to protect consumers from the devastating financial effects of wildfires and other disasters,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. “I encourage evacuees to contact their insurance agent or the Department of Insurance for assistance.”

Policies vary by company, and residents should check with their provider as soon as possible, Jones said.

It’s still unclear when residents who lost their homes will even be able to begin the process of recovery. There is no target date for when those affected in Ventura County will be able to return home, the Ventura County Star reported.

When Northern California was hit by wildfires earlier this fall, officials worked for weeks to ensure neighborhoods were free of toxic waste and other health hazards before restless residents could even think about rebuilding, according to the Los Angeles Times.

However, the Department of Insurance has ordered insurance companies to expedite all wildfire-related claims and instate billing grace periods to ease the process.

Recovery websites have been set up for victims in Ventura and San Diego counties at VenturaCountyRecovery.org and SDCountyRecovery.com. There is also a statewide wildfire recovery website and the Department of Insurance has a page on wildfire recovery resources.

Rehabilitation information will be available for victims of the Creek, Rye and Skirball fires at the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center at 11075 Foothill Blvd. from Tuesday, Dec. 12, to Friday, Dec. 15 between 12 and 8 p.m., as well as Saturday, Dec. 16, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An assistance center will also be open to those affected by the Lilac Fire beginning Monday at the Vista Library, located at 700 Eucalyptus Ave. in Vista. Hours of operation had not yet been determined.

Addition resources can be obtained via:
• Federal Emergency Management Agency: 800-621-3362 or http://www.fema.gov
• Contractors State License Board: 800-321-2752 or http://www.cslb.ca.gov
• National Insurance Crime Bureau 888-815-9064 or http://www.nicb.org