In just over a week’s time, thousands of homes have been destroyed in the fires burning in California, tens of thousands of people were displaced –many now without homes to go back to –and tragically over 40 lives have been lost.
Thanks to the valiant fire fighters, law enforcement officers, national guard, and other first responders who are doing an amazing job at great risk to contain the fires and move people to safety.
Once people’s safety has been secured, our next task is to help fire victims with recovery. Friday I issued a notice to insurers asking them to expedite their claims handling for fire victims — to cut red tape and issue advance payments to policyholders to help them begin to recover.
And this weekend I went to Santa Rosa to help fire victims.
I visited the Local Assistance Center and thanked representatives of local, state and federal agencies and volunteers who were there assisting residents. Our Department of Insurance consumer assistance staff were there helping fire victims with their insurance questions. I helped one man by getting his insurer to use a photo of his totaled car to begin processing his claim.
Another purpose of my Santa Rosa visit was to make sure insurers were there with sufficient staff to help policyholders. They are.
Most of us have heard or read harrowing stories of near death escapes this past week. I heard some of them first-hand when I visited the evacuation centers over the weekend. I met one man who saved his wheelchair bound elderly neighbor, who otherwise would have perished in her burning mobilehome. I visited whole neighborhoods laid to waste by fire.
The Department of Insurance consumer services staff will continue to be at Local Assistance Centers throughout the state to help consumers with insurance questions or disputes. We will also deploy our law enforcement officers to deter scam artists who typically flood into hard hit areas.
These are some of the most destructive fires in California history. At the same time, people have rallied to each other’s assistance. Despite the tragedy, the way that people have pitched in to help one another is inspiring.
And we will continue to do our part to make sure consumers are protected, so if you know anyone in need of assistance with their insurance claim or a question, please have them contact us at the Department of Insurance at 1-800-927-4357. We are there to help. Thank you.