Claims Valued at $35M Filed Over Reno Wildfires

May 14, 2012

About 1,100 claims valued at $35 million have been filed as a result of two major wildfires around Reno, Nev., in recent months, according to insurance carrier reports.

The Nov. 18 Caughlin Ranch Fire burned nearly 1,900 acres and destroyed 26 homes after being started by power lines arcing in high winds. A man died of a heart attack while evacuating his home.

The Jan. 19 Washoe Drive Fire killed a 93-year-old woman, charred 3,100 acres and destroyed 28 homes after being accidentally started by a man’s improper disposal of ashes.

Nevada Division of Insurance spokesman Jake Sunderland told the Reno Gazette-Journal that residents in fire-prone areas should learn about their policy coverage, and the difference between replacement cost and actual cost values. Replacement cost insures the market value of items, while actual cash value covers the purchase price for items.

“If you’re a homeowner or lender, you probably have several items. Can you replace those items with the money you have? The answer is probably no,” he said.

Homeowners should thoroughly document possessions by writing down serial number or recording items with a video camera, he said.

Caryl Batts, who lost her home in the Caughlin Fire, said she regrets not conducting a thorough inventory before the blaze. She met with her agent and a third party to make sure she and her husband received proper compensation.

“I didn’t take pictures. I wish that I had,” she told the Gazette-Journal. “It took three days to go through the entire house, room by room to remember.”

he also urged homeowners to review their policies.

“I just really think when you live in a place like we do with hills and wildfire, people really need to go through it and review (it),” she said.

Sunderland said most renters are unaware they must purchase renter’s insurance if they want compensation for belongings destroyed by fire.

“We know that a very small percentage (of claims were) from renter’s insurance policies,” he said.

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