7 On Your Side helps Valley Fire evacuees in need

Friday, September 18, 2015
7 On Your Side: Valley Fire survivors need help with phones, insurance
7 On Your Side's Michael Finney and ABC7 News staff went to the fire evacuation center in Calistoga to help Valley Fire evacuees.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Michael Finney and the 7 On Your Side team went to the Valley Fire evacuation center in Calistoga to help Valley Fire evacuees with issues ranging from avoiding fraud, to how to get the help they need, to finding a mattress to sleep on.

There was a cellphone charging station set up, as well as a booth with experts from the Better Business Bureau and United Policyholders. The BBB can help find legitimate businesses, brands and charities. United Policyholders is a non-profit that is a useful information resource for people dealing with insurance matters and they can help people through the claims process.

PHOTOS: 7 On Your Side at Valley Fire evacuation center

We found people who need help with problems with places to stay, pets, phones, and data usage.

We were surprised to find some people are still looking for friends and family. Evacuee Paul Tomasio said he is looking for Alex Overall or Alex Pushkin. If you know where she is, please contact Michael Finney using the form on this page, contact him at @MFinney on Twitter or write a message to him on Facebook.

DONATIONS: How to help victims of the Valley Fire where you live

RESOURCES: Valley Fire evacuation centers, school closure information

VIDEO: 7 On Your Side: What fire victims should do if they have insurance

Finney says the top three things Valley Fire victims should do if they have insurance is to read their insurance policy, or request one from their insurance carrier, make an initial request for living expenses, and find others like you that have lost homes in your area and people with the same insurance company - that way you can work together as a group.

United Policyholders director Amy Bach said the biggest mistake people make is they didn't buy insurance in the first place. For those who have insurance, the biggest mistake they often make is having an unrealistic idea of what the claim process is going to be like, so they may relax at a time when they should stay involved in the process and checking on the progress of their claim.

VIDEO: 7 On Your Side: State Farm agents talk about claims

State Farm insurance agents are asking Valley Fire victims to contact them so they can help.

VIDEO: 7 On Your Side: How do you pay the bills if you have no home?

7 On Your Side helped Dennis and Kathie Pennell get their cellphone service turned back on after they had trouble getting home to collect and pay the bills with checks that are also at their home. Their house wasn't destroyed, but it is in an evacuation area where they aren't allowed in.

VIDEO: 7 On Your Side finds mattresses for tired evacuees

7 On Your Side was able to help a group of older woman who simply needed a mattress on top of their cots so she could sleep better at night. They've lost a lot of sleep and needed the simple addition. One woman who has a bad back was so surprised and thankful she started to tear up. Another woman told Finney, with a big smile on her face, this simple act of kindness was a huge help to her.

VIDEO: 7 On Your Side: BBB has warnings for homeowners, donors

Life is not easy at the evacuation center. 7 On Your Side spoke to fire evacuee Gary Lospaluto from Cobb who doesn't know if his home is still standing or not. He's been sleeping in his van, so we treated him to a night at the Mount View Hotel and Spa.

Jarrod Wise from the Better Business Bureau is warning people to watch out for scams, especially when unlicensed contractors come into town when the roads open up. You need to be careful as those people will go door to door to try to find work or their next scam victim. He also warns people who want to donate money to fire victims should watch out for fake crowd-funding pages for specific people that will pop up right about now.

PHOTOS: Fire crews battle massive Valley Fire

VIDEO: Owner of Hoberg's Resort tours what's left of historic getaway

Click here for full coverage on the Valley Fire.

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PHOTOS: ABC7 News at the Valley Fire