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Insurance claims reach $6.4 million

Tamie Meck
Staff Writer

The insurance industry estimates that insurance companies will pay $6.4 million in claims related to the Coal Seam Fire, which started June 8 in South Canyon. The fire claimed a total of 24 homes and 14 outbuildings in the West Glenwood area.

One insurance company alone estimates it will pay out $2.8 million in claims related to the fire.

As of Friday, State Farm Insurance, the largest insurer of homes in Colorado, had received 54 claims resulting from the fire, according to Eric Anderson, State Farm spokesman.

“Unfortunately, 10 of those were total losses,” said Anderson.

According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Industry Association (RMIIA), companies as of Friday had taken in about 120 claims, including for burned homes, personal belongings, smoke damage, and additional living expenses. Those early numbers could rise as claims continue to be filed.

Anderson urged people who have not done so to contact their insurance agent immediately, regardless of how minor the damage, to begin the claims process.

Jeff Leonard, one of two State Farm Agents in Glenwood Springs, said three clients from his office alone suffered total loss of their homes.

“It’s heart-wrenching,” said Leonard shortly after meeting Friday with people who had lost a home. “I can’t even imagine how bad they feel.”

Leonard called the claims process “grueling” for the victims. But then, he added, “This is our time to shine, and to keep the promises that we made to people when we put the insurance policy into place.

“Our job is to make the process as smooth and painless as possible.”

Anderson said State Farm recruited three additional claims handlers to meet with homeowners. Representatives of some local insurance companies are available at the American Red Cross Resource Center, located at Glenwood Springs High School, 1340 Pitkin Ave.

As far as what damage insurance companies will cover, “The best advice is to check with the insurance company you’re with,” said Anderson.

With Colorado facing one of the worst fire seasons in history, Anderson urged homeowners to review their policies with their agents, and, if they haven’t done so already, do a thorough inventory of their personal possessions as soon as possible.

“If you’ve lost everything, it’s very hard in times of emergency to remember everything you’ve lost,” said Anderson.

The RMIIA has a website offering suggestions on completing such an inventory, including a form that homeowners can fill out and put in a safe place. The site also offers suggestions on how to protect homes from damage due to fire and other acts of nature.

People who are preparing to close on the purchase of real estate in the area may find it hard to purchase fire insurance on their new property. Anderson said that is known in the industry as “imminent danger.” (See story at left.)

A person generally can’t buy flood insurance in an area that was recently flooded or is expected to flood, nor can they get earthquake insurance following a quake because of the danger of aftershock. Again, urged Anderson, contact an agent for more information.


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