Community meets to discuss fire recovery | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Community meets to discuss fire recovery

Charles Sizemore

Generous donations have been pouring in to the Lake Tahoe Angora Fire Fund, Locals for Locals. As far as the slew of large donations on behalf of corporations such as NBC Sports and American Century reported in the last few weeks, these, for the most part, are promised donations and have not actually been received, Betty “B” Gorman said at a community meeting on Tuesday. Gorman, executive director of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce, speculated that many of the larger, promised donations will be received by the end of August.

Gorman responded to concerns from fire victims regarding where donations are going, and when they will be available to the victims. Gorman announced that the Lake Tahoe Angora Fire Fund has achieved 501(c) 3 non-profit status, and is open to victims to register for assistance at http://www.helptahoe.com.

Presently, the board of the fire fund is deciding upon the criteria they will use to allocate funds to victims. Once the board has a good idea of how much money they actually have, they can do a better job of appropriately allocating those funds. Gorman didn’t provide a time frame for when that might happen.

Gorman addressed a meeting organized by the chamber regarding community recovery in the wake of the Angora fire.

About 60 people showed up at the South Tahoe High School gymnasium to listen to a panel composed of past disaster survivors and offering their advice and guidance through the recovery process.

On the panel were Paul Vendeventer of Community Partners, Dave Stuart of Rebuilding Mountain Hearts and Lives, George Kehrer of Community Assisting Recovery, and Amy Bach and Karen Reimus of United Policy Holders.

Vendeventer introduced the panel, allowing each member to give a brief explanation of their experience, and how they ended up in South Lake Tahoe.

The meeting then turned to the Angora fire. Perhaps the main concern of the panel on behalf of the audience was the claims process, which was fitting as a majority of those attending had lost their homes to the fire.

Education of the claims process was stressed, a slow process that will most likely span one or two years.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Amy Bach, who started United Policy Holders with a whistleblower claims adjuster from State Farm. Bach made the point that the claims process is a business negotiation, and that in order to be able to negotiate with your insurer fairly, one must be thoroughly informed. “The best thing you can do is just get informed,” Bach said.

George Kehrer has a saying that he passed on to Karen Reimus: “Your adjuster may be friendly, but he’s not your friend.” Kehrer and his wife have moved to the South Shore in order to offer one-on-one assistance through the claims process for survivors of the Angora fire.

Another important aspect of the claims process is to be honest. According to Bach, if you lose credibility with your adjuster, they can make the process very hard for you.

Dave Stuart, who started Rebuilding Mountain Hearts and Lives after the Lake Arrowhead wildfire, stressed the importance of a centralized community organization to press the recovery process. Stuart helped run an organization of community members that ultimately raised over $1 million for their recovery.

Stuart became choked up as he described his experience in South Lake Tahoe during the fire, and said that the South Shore has a lot going for it in terms of elected officials, the business community and others dedicated to seeing the South Shore recover as quickly as possible.

Concerns from the audience were then addressed. One man, who lost his home but already has the debris cleared and a permit to rebuild, was worried that perhaps he’d moved too fast. Others added that although the panelists suggested moving slowly and combing their debris for any proof of materials and property, they feel pressure to clear debris because of an impending rainy season followed by snow. If debris is not removed before heavy rains come, then the South Shore could experience debris flows. It was suggested that residents immediately sign up for flood insurance. Ultimately, the city and county will have to take measures to protect the area from debris flows.

The chamber is offering survivors of the Angora fire a free copy of “The Disaster Recovery Handbook,” which offers a nuts-and-bolts guide through the claims process.

Another concern from the audience was when they should sign with their insurance companies, and how will they know when the claims process is over.

“When you’ve done all your homework, and know that you haven’t left a dollar on the table, you know you’re done,” Kehrer answered.

The chamber is offering survivors of the Angora fire a free copy of “The Disaster Recovery Handbook,” which offers a nuts-and-bolts guide through the claims process.

Organizations represented at the community meeting:

Community Partners, http://www.communitypartners.org

Rebuilding Mountain Hearts & Lives, http://www.heartsandlives.org

Community Assisting Recovery, http://www.carehelp.org

United Policy Holders, http://www.uphelp.org

Lake Tahoe Angora Fire Fund, http://www.helptahoe.com


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