Victims of North Bay Fires speak out at state insurance committee meeting in Napa

Wednesday, October 31, 2018
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At time emotions flooded the room as victims of the North Bay fires and legislators talked about the issues with insurance a year after the disaster.

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- In a meeting room almost overflowing with people, the emotions overshadowed them at times.

"Right now my wife and I are refugees of the fires in the North Bay," said Scott Weiss. He is a Fountaingrove fire victim, speaking to a joint hearing of California's Senate and Assembly Insurance committees. It provided a rare opportunity for Weiss and others to vent against insurance companies, and be heard.

RELATED: Under-insured homeowners left without enough to rebuild after North Bay Fires

"They under-insure on purpose. They don't want to pay out on purpose. They don't want to pay out. "

Weiss lost a home in the Fountaingrove area of Santa Rosa. He says he trusted his insurance agent that he had enough coverage in case of a fire. Now, Weiss estimates he's a million dollars short.

"I think most people believe the market value of their home is what they should insure to," said Rex Frazier, who spoke for the insurance industry. "They need to insure for what it would take to rebuild their home."

RELATED: Disparity of progress apparent as Santa Rosa rebuilds after North Bay Fires

More than a year after the fires, rebuilding delays and complaints continue to mount. On Tuesday, the committee heard from victims and legislators who say insurance companies should prepare to deal with disasters so large that they create their own economic climates.

"Most insurance companies are built around the loss of one home. We lost 3,000," said Chris Rogers, the Vice-Mayor of Santa Rosa.

With the costs of labor and materials cost up, and much work still to be done, the committee heard that limiting policyholders to 18 months for rebuilding may not be enough. The insured resent it.

"Many of them are feeling that is used as leverage to make them take a lowball settlement for contents, homes and reconstruction," said Rogers

RELATED: The North Bay Wildfires: One Year Later

In some cases, homeowners have sued. Scott Weiss joined those ranks last week.

"They can't do anything because they can't figure out what they have to work with because of the insurance companies, so we're all on hold," he said. "I am a former Marine officer in a battle, stepping over the line of departure. It is going to be a fight."

For more stories and videos about the North Bay Fires go here.