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Disasters & Accidents

Insurance, Wealth, And Red Tape Will Play Into Homeowners' Recovery After Wildfires

Brian Bull

As homeowners across Oregon sift through the ashes and debris, their rate of recovery from this year’s wildfires will be uneven, due to several factors.

The Almeda Fire hit suburban areas, which are not commonly seen as vulnerable to wildfires. Many homeowners lacked insurance for such disasters. Chris Dunn is an Oregon State University researcher whose brother lost his home.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Remnants of a home in Talent after the Almeda Fire, including a scorched pickup and trailer.

“They’re estimating cleanup costs per parcel to be $75,000 in the city of Talent. And that’s cost prohibitive, I think his insurance will cover $30,000.  And so any addition above that starts to really eat into their ability to even rebuild.”

Another OSU wildfire expert, Erika Fischer, said even if an affected homeowner qualifies for help, bureaucracy will affect their outcome.

“There’s a delay when FEMA money comes in and when Congress decides to send out money to these communities. So those individuals that are reliant on that money and are underinsured or don’t have insurance are significantly behind in their recovery curve.”

Additionally, homeowners that are wealthier are more apt to have insurance and other resources available than those from more impoverished backgrounds.

One development that could help is a deal worked out among state and federal agencies, to get EPA crews in to clean up destroyed homesteads in eight Oregon counties for free.

Both Dunn and Fischer made their remarks during a recent OSU media panel with wildfire experts.

If you're an Oregon resident contending with wildfire recovery and rebuilding issues - or work with such invididuals - visit KLCC's contact page to share your situation with our news department. 

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

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