Couple who lost everything in the North Bay fires sent to collections for burned AT&T equipment

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A Sonoma couple who lost everything in the Partrick Fire have been working hard to rebuild their lives. Then, a bill collector demanded money for utilities that no longer exist.

Rochelle and Richard Nyquist were just beginning to heal from losing everything. They lost their house, as well as their antique car collection, and everything they'd accumulated during 50 years of marriage.

Then they found out their telecom company was billing them for service that had long since burned up in the fire - bringing back haunting memories.

The couple's Sonoma home survived earthquakes and floods, but not the North Bay wildfires. "Coming here to see my property is very painful," says Rochelle Nyquist. Now, much of what remains is a crumbling foundation.

RELATED: The North Bay Wildfires: One Year Later

"We drove out through basically a tunnel of fire," says Rochelle. Now in their 70s, the couple says the won't try to rebuild.

Earlier this year, the couple opened their mail to find a stinging rebuke - a collections warning for an AT&T bill. The company had been billing the Nyquists $421 for phone and television service since March, long after the fires destroyed everything.

AT&T said it tried to reach Rochelle. "They began phoning my burned up phone, my disconnected number, and I wasn't answering!," she says. That's when AT&T sent her to collections.

Rochelle says AT&T refused to cancel the charge, and would only reduce it by half.

BEFORE & AFTER: DRONEVIEW7 shows North Bay Fires devastation, recovery

The couple contacted 7 On Your Side and we reached out to AT&T. The company took care of the couple, saying, "Due to an error, we did not cancel the account. We have apologized, corrected the error and provided a full refund."

AT&T also sent a check for $137.

The Nyquists say the unwarranted phone bill was the last loose end to a long struggle to rebuild. Though it seemed like a small problem - it loomed large when they tried to put the disaster behind them. Now, they're ready to move on.

Go here for full coverage on the North Bay fires.

Click here for a look at more stories by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
Copyright © 2021 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.