Insurance Companies Set Up In Creek County To Handle Fire Victims' Claims

Monday, August 6th 2012, 11:05 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Following rampant wildfires in numerous places in Oklahoma, there are a lot of people filing claims with insurance companies, and more who have losses, but no insurance.

A lot of people lost everything, including insurance and property records of what they had.

That can slow down an insurance claim, but there's help even for people without insurance.

The big insurance companies and the insurance commissioner's office have set up shop at Lake Church to bring help closer to where it's needed.

Kevin Tarantahm has State Farm insurance on his house, which burned to the ground.

"I didn't have an opportunity to get anything out, including 3 cats unfortunately. So yes, I lost everything," Tarantahm said.

That's been a common story in Creek County, where the fire burned through so many homes. It reduced everything to ashes.

8/6/2012 Related Story: State Forestry Officials: Roughly 70 Structures Destroyed In Creek County

"We've had 25 reps on the grounds since Friday, trying to help our customers, and we'll help them back to their feet as soon as possible," said Mike Hopkins, with State Farm.

Hopkins says a home inventory and photographs speed up the process for the final claim, but short term help is immediate, so people can buy clothes and get into a hotel.

The Insurance Commissioner's office helps coordinate claims and direct help, even for people without insurance.

"Many of them have insurance and they're trying to get the number and get their claim on the way, but we have just as many without insurance asking, ‘What help is available to me?'" Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak said.

Insurance adjusters recognize the nature of a total loss, but also need documentation. Any records in a fireproof box would help.

"It's always a good idea to photograph your home and the contents because you never know when that might come in handy," Hopkins said.

None of Tarantahm's records survived the fire, so he has to recreate them from memory, just to document that he lost everything.

"How in the world am I going to do that?" Tarantahm said.

Considering so many lost so much, insurance companies plan to stay on scene several more days to get claims started for their customers.

The Insurance Commissioner's office can also direct people to the charities that are helping, and let them know how to get affordable insurance.

We'll get new numbers tomorrow, but for now, Allstate said they have received 39 claims and State Farm had 33 claims for houses lost in the wildfires last weekend.

See full coverage of Oklahoma Wildfires