How to start the process of filing an insurance claim for wildfire victims

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MARION COUNTY, OR (KPTV) - With many homes damaged or destroyed by Oregon’s wildfires, many are now filing insurance claims, which can be a confusing process to navigate.

Oregon has an agency that can help homeowners through their insurance claims, though every insurance company is going to have their own policy and process for claim. That agency is the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

The agency said the most common question they’re getting right now is if homeowners insurance covers fires.

“Your typical insurance policies cover fire, smoke and ash damage to your home and your personal property, there's no difference in type of fire, a wildfire will be covered like a kitchen or electrical fire would be covered under your policy,” Brad Hilliard, a spokesman for the DCBS, said.

Hilliard says it’s important to understand your policy terms. So, if you’ve been evacuated, the first step is to contact your insurance company and let them know. Ask about your specific coverage.

“One of the big thing you want to ask about is additional living expenses, so if you're part of a mandatory evacuation, most policies will help cover extra expenses that you're incurring - lodging, food, even pet boarding," Hilliard said. "Save all of your receipts right now."

You may even be able to get reimbursed for those evacuation expenses, even if your home wasn’t damaged.

But, for those who did lose property to the wildfires, insurance companies will ask for a list of valuables that were destroyed. That can be a daunting task to do from memory. So, it’s a good idea for everyone to make a home inventory. Take photos and videos of all the things in your home, so you can prove what you owned.

It’s also important for those who are returning home to inspect the damage and have a camera handy.

“Take photos so you can document what happened,” Hilliard said. “Your company will probably want to inspect the property, so we recommend, don't get rid of anything or start any repairs until your company confirms that you can.”

The state has a team of insurance advocates ready to help and a wildfire resource webpage online here.

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