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Check your home fire insurance coverage

November 13, 2009 12:24:51 AM PST
Last year, the Freeway Complex Fire swept through hundreds of Orange County homes and properties. Months later, residents are still having trouble recovering what they lost.The Freeway Complex Fire destroyed more than 300 homes and thousands of acres. Many of the residents who lost homes thought they were insured, but it turns out it wasn't enough.

Some of the homes destroyed have not been rebuilt. Homeowners say that their insurance companies led them to believe that they were fully insured, but when the fire hit, they found out they were not, something that could happen to just about any homeowner.

This is the one-year anniversary of the Freeway Complex Fire in Orange County, but some Anaheim Hills and Yorba Linda homeowners have no reason to celebrate. That's because in some cases their home is still just a concrete slab.

"I have literally lost a year of my life," said Sheri Allen, who lost her home to the fire.

Allen is just one of six homeowners who held a news conference Friday blaming their insurance company for being underinsured, for low-balling them, for delays and broken promises.

"We find ourselves underinsured by more than $250,000 on the construction alone. That's nearly 50 percent of the rebuild cost," said homeowner Patrick Craft.

These fire victims want the help of California's insurance commissioner, Steve Poizner. Deputy Commissioner Bryon Tucker says they've got it.

"We've heard some very troubling personal stories here and we want the people to know that we are definitely here to help," said Tucker.

While these homeowners iron out their differences with their insurers, all the rest of us can learn from this tragedy.

Number one: Read your policy.

"I don't think I have read my insurance policy from start to finish until after this had happened," said Priya Sprenger.

Number two: Make sure you have enough coverage.

"Because it's not just rebuilding the structure. It's also the planning, the architectural planning, it's all the permitting that goes through," said Pete Moraga, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California. "So the claims process on a total loss is probably the most complex claims process there is."

Number three: Do a home inventory.

"Make sure you take photographs and inventory everything -- open drawers, cupboards, closets, garage," said Sheri Allen. "Just take pictures of everything you've got in your house."

Not all homeowners in the area had troubles with their insurance companies. In fact just right down the street from where the press conference was hled, there are a couple of homes under construction and they're just about move-in ready.


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