Insurance money running out for North Bay wildfire victims

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Saturday, August 31, 2019
Insurance money running out for North Bay wildfire victims
Alan Williams of Fountaingrove is one of the homeowners affected by the 2017 North Bay wildfires. (Wayne Freedman)

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- As promised, we returned Friday to the problems of firestorm home owners and their soon-to-expire additional living expenses provided by insurance companies.

For many, those payments to cover rent and other needs run out with the second anniversary of the fire.

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We were surprised to learn how many people are impacted. Michael Grossman of Sonoma County told us that, as of Friday, 831 of 5,400 destroyed homes have been rebuilt. Of those remaining, roughly 2,100 face the cut off in payments by insurance companies that will not extend their benefits.

Some, like Chubb, CSAA and Farmers, have done so. Others, including State Farm and Allstate, have not.

Alan Williams of Fountaingrove is semi-fortunate but still a victim because, while work has begun on his home, he'll be paying roughly $6,000 per month until maybe January 1.

Another resident, Jim Robertson of Fountaingrove, moved to Montana two weeks ago because he would be losing $3,000 a month staying here.

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Lisa Frazee of Wikiup is in the worst shape of everyone.

She had dealt with 14 months of delays due to being in a geohazard zone. The lot is clear. That's all. She says delays by State Farm didn't help, either. "They keep changing adjusters." Now, Lisa has begun a petition drive to implore insurance companies to "do the right thing" and extend their ALE coverage to victims.

Since the fire, California law now requires insurance companies to provide three years of alternate living expenses, not two. "They should see that as a guideline," Frazee said.

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane told us Friday she's disappointed by the insurance companies' behavior, and State Farm in particular. "Of every 10 horror stories, eight or nine of them are about State Farm," she said.

"I feel really angry at these insurance companies... that they put profits ahead of people. It is sad when people are suffering," Zane said. "They are re-traumatizing fire survivors right as we approach the second anniversary."

RELATED: Bill that would have eased insurance claims for North Bay Fire victims dies in California Senate

Coffey Park's Larry Keyser described his ALE frustrations for us late last spring. "We might make the deadline. No guarantees."

And Sonoma County's firestorm woes keep on coming.