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OAK KNOLL AFTERMATH

Fire raises questions about home insurance

Most homeowner's insurance policies cover loss from fire
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CERT volunteer Liza Christian discovers her CERT card in the ashes of her Oak Knoll Drive home. Pennell photoBbo Pennell
 Posted: 2:00 AM August 28, 2010

When Liza Christian moves into a rental house in the coming days, she plans to hang her grandmother's cast-iron skillet on the wall — as a reminder of her home for 31 years on Oak Knoll Drive, which burned to the ground Tuesday.

"I'll put up a sign that says, 'We survived the Aug. 24, 2010 fire. Look at us. We're strong.'"

Almost everything else in her home at 843 Oak Knoll Drive was destroyed in the fire that decimated 10 other houses in less than an hour.

In the wake of Ashland's worst residential fire in at least 100 years, locals are checking to see if they have homeowner's or renter's insurance that covers losses due to wildfires.

"I have thought, should I get my policy out and read it?" said Ashland resident Eleanor Marzocco. "Oak Knoll looked like such a safe neighborhood, so now all of us have been thinking about certain dry grass areas and checking out everything. It seems like if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere in the city."

Many homeowner's insurance policies cover losses due to events such as Tuesday's fire — but not all do, said Charlotte Edwards, an agent with Ashland Insurance, which has two clients who lost their homes Tuesday.

"I know that there are some companies out there that you have to be very careful of what you are purchasing, because it doesn't always cover everything that one would think it would cover," she said.

Renter's insurance policies typically cover the replacement of personal belongings, up to a certain amount stated in the policy, Edwards said.

Christian expects her insurance company to pay to replace her home and its contents, she said.

"I know I'm going to be taken care of," she said. "I have good insurance and great friends so I know that my needs are going to be met."

Homeowner's insurance typically costs between $500 and $1,000 per year in Ashland, depending on the value of the home, Edwards said.

"Most homeowner's policies that are with a preferred company cover all perils, such as fire, theft, wind or water damage," she said.

Renter's insurance usually costs between $100 and $200 annually and covers the loss of a person's belongings and living space, she said.

Most insurance polices also have deductibles, which the holders must pay before the insurance company will begin to replace a home and belongings.

If a person loses their home, the insurance company will usually pay for the cost of a rental house while the home is being rebuilt, Edwards said.

People who own valuable art, jewelry or similar items can inventory the items to ensure they are covered on their policy, which will likely mean paying a higher premium, she said.

Edwards, who has been an insurance agent for 35 years, said Tuesday's fire was the worst she had ever seen.

"It shows that it's very important to have insurance, especially if you own the home or have a mortgage on it, because you don't want to lose everything," she said.

While an insurance company can replace practical items such as furniture or dishes, there are some items that can't be replaced, Christian said.

"You see this and you think, 'It's OK, it's just stuff,'" she said, surveying the ashes of her home. "But some of the stuff has memories associated with it and those are the things that can't be replaced."

Still, Christian said there are some things that can't be lost, even in a fire.

"Nobody can take your friends away from you," she said. "And they're the ones who will be there to help you through it the next day."

As for her grandmother's cast-iron pans — Christian is hoping they'll be as good as new soon. Chris Chambers, public information officer with Ashland Fire & Rescue, helped her pull them from the rubble Thursday and offered to polish the rust off of them in his free time.

"As a personal favor to her, I offered to clean them up, because I know they were her grandmother's and because they're one of the few things that I saw on her property that I think could be returned to a relatively pre-fire state," he said.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.



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