Insurance companies are the ‘second’ responders

Published: June 21, 2013, 6:30 pm

Resident Bill Moreau, right, describes what used to be in his house, which burned in the Black Forest fire, to Allstate National Catastrophe Claims Adjuster Larry Stika Friday, June 21, 2013. Moreau is quickly taking steps to get everything in order to rebuild as soon as possible. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

by GARRISON WELLS garrison.wells@gazette.com -

Three pink ribbons and a red stake mark the entry to Bill Moreau’s Black Forest driveway.

The ribbons represent the number of times his house was visited by firefighters.

The red stake means his house is a total loss, one of the 511 homes and other structures destroyed by the 14,280-acre Black Forest fire.

An early estimate puts the damage at roughly $90 million, but that number is expected to grow.

Moreau had welcome visitors Friday.

Members of Allstate’s National Catastrophe Team arrived to help him figure out how much it will cost to replace the house that he and his wife, Karen, moved into in 2009. Nestled among the pines and rolling hills off of Connaught Drive, the home was a dream 30 years in the making, he said.

The market value of his home and roughly 5 acres was $868,092 in 2013. Today, it’s a husk, a victim of the area’s second wildfire disaster inside of a year.

The earth around it is scorched, some trees are blackened, others untouched.

A seven-foot sapling stands strong and supple a few feet from an 18-foot burned log. In the midst of this bleak landscape flowers blossom in a garden in the back.

These things give Moreau hope.

“We like to see it as a sign,” he said. “This fire was caused in part by nature, and some of nature has survived, you know what I mean?”

What nature will not take care of, Moreau hopes his insurance company will handle. He’s in the same position of many other homeowners in the Black Forest area.

His visitors are Larry Stika, complex claims adjuster and Glenn Williamson, a quality evaluator.

A few weeks ago both were in Moore, Okla., helping homeowners recover from tornadoes.

It’s their job. They are sent to disaster areas to help Allstate customers.

They are trained to deal with the high emotions of people hit by huge losses, said Allstate spokeswoman Stephanie Howell. Stika also has experience in the building industry, which helps him evaluate loss.

He has six homes in the Black Forest area to evaluate. On Friday, it was Moreau’s turn.

Working with the managing director of the sports medicine division for the United States Olympic Committee has gone smoothly, Stika said.

Moreau has kept his emotions in check for the most part, except when he talked about the loss of a flag from his father’s coffin.

The flag, he said, choking up with emotion: “represented the service my dad provided.”

Those things cannot be replaced.

For everything else, Moreau has photos and memories to help with the rebuilding.

He and Stika went over the photos together. Moreau also pointed out incinerated appliances among the debris, a refrigerator, an ATV, a computer.

They can all be replaced, he said.

“We’re working though the emotional healing part,” Moreau said. “We feel like we have support around us. Now you have to face the reality that this house is gone.”

“We’re fortunate that we’re well covered,” he added.

Others, he acknowledged, aren’t as lucky.

“This is where we want to live,” Moreau said. “We’re going to build again, absolutely, 100 percent.”