Wildfire near Cle Elum has reportedly burned 60 homes

A wildfire near Cle Elum, Wash. has reportedly burned 60 homes and 26,000 acres, with summer dryness and high winds making firefighters' jobs difficult.

The Seattle Times has posted some pretty scary photos of local homeowners and ranchers watching the wildfire approach. And the North Kittitas County Tribune is posting a running log of fire news, including a phone number for local evacuation information. The state has also activated its emergency operations center.

Our hearts go out to the victims, and we're monitoring the situation closely. Fire victims should contact their insurer or agent as soon as possible to start the claims process. Many policies include some coverage for emergency shelter, such as motels, if a home is uninhabitable. Our consumer advocacy staff (1-800-562-6900) will be available to help fire victims if they have trouble filing insurance claims.

Here are some more tips:
  • Cooperate fully with the insurer. Ask what documents forms and data you'll need to file a claim. Keep a journal of all conversations, including who you talked with and when.
  • Ask your insurer about additional living expenses if your home is destroyed. Save all relevant receipts.
  • Take photos or video of the damage.
  • If there's a disagreement about a claim, talk to the insurer. Ask the company to cite specific language in the policy. If you need help, call our office at 1-800-562-6900.
  • If the insurer's offer seems too low, be prepared to negotiate to get a fair settlement.
If you're not affected by the blaze but live in a wildfire-prone area -- and much of the eastern part of the state is very dry right now -- here's a list of tips to prepare and protect your home.

And here's a handy pdf document that will help you get started on a home inventory, which can be a big help in filing an insurance claim after a disaster. You can also use a video camera or one of several smartphone apps to do the same thing.

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