Fire insurance replaces only the tangibles

May 28, 2008 7:18:45 PM PDT
For many victims of the Summit Fire, the focus is now on rebuilding. But, it's a complicated and costly process for many families. Many are now finding out just what their insurance will cover.

The Wohnoutka family's dream home was two stories with a Spanish archway, double doors, a spiral staircase and a pool that overlooked a gorgeous view of Monterey Bay.

"It was just like my stomach was turning and I was in shock. And then, I would think about everything I forgot to tell you about," says fire victim Ron Wohnoutka as he talked to his insurance adjuster John Fernandez.

Fernandez got to see for himself what Ron and Diana Wohnoutkas lost --a piece of paradise to enjoy their retirement years.

"If you would have seen it before this fire - it was really Shangri-La," says wife Diana Wohnoutka.

Home insurance is by the numbers - not emotion. On paper, the two story structure, all of its contents, several work shops, and tools were valued at $1 million. Today, Farmers Insurance handed the Wohnoutkas an initial payout of $580,000.

"Put them at ease, and then kind of start on the process on the building structure, handle the contents, get them in advance, make sure they have some place to live," says Fernandez.

When a home turns to ashes, the 'to do list' is almost a welcome distraction from what no policy can insure. For Ron, it's photos and military commendations for combat in Vietnam.

"Those things hurt the most. It's those things you really can't replace, money can't buy that stuff," says Ron.

What's recognizable is a few pieces of China. What's destroyed is the Japanese artwork made by Diana's mother.

"There are so many of those things I wanted to hand down to our daughter. Now, I have nothing to give her. Nothing," says Diana.

What they do have is each other and an insurance policy that gives them the ability to rebuild.

"We'll build a house more for older people like we're getting, and smaller, but it'll be nice. It'll be home and the dogs and all of us will be back in the yard and it'll be the good old days," says Ron.

Both Ron Wohnoutka and his insurance adjustor say to make sure your policy is updated with home improvements and home values. The most heartbreaking stories of this fire are the ones about people with no fire insurance at all.


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