In the ashes of three recent fires where uninsured owners and renters lost their homes in the Valley and nearly all of their earthly possessions, the Pioneer asked the Columbia Valley Rural Fire & Rescue Service Fire Chief Jim Miller for his recommendations on fire insurance.
“You better have it,” he said. “It’s well worth it… It can be a matter of losing everything or not.”
Over his career he has seen people lose their homes and born witness as their personal tragedies unfolded.
“They lose everything they worked their life for, and within seconds it’s in ashes with not a thing left except what they’re wearing. It’s pretty traumatic. It’s pretty sad. And those that don’t have insurance, it’s ‘oh my god, what do you do now?’ You start over. They can be 60, 70, 80-year-old people this happens to. If they don’t have insurance for that, it’s absolutely devastating. I’ve seen it, and it’s not very nice,” he said.
After nearly two years of living in a trailer, Danielle Soucy had officially signed the papers to make the Canal Flats trailer hers a short three weeks before a fire on March 15th reduced her dreams to rubble. She was waiting on her next paycheque to see about adding on home insurance. In the wake of the fire, Ms. Soucy and her two young children were left to start over from scratch.
Five weeks earlier, Darren Reiffenstein, who rented a trailer in the Columbi Valley, narrowly escaped a fire that consumed the trailer he rented in minutes.
“I got away with my life and a pair of joggers. That’s it,” he said.
He had no renter’s insurance to cover his losses.
In November over in the Village of Radium Hot Springs, an inferno claimed Rolf Heer’s uninsured Home Of A Thousand Faces where he lived and worked.
“Forty years of history down the drain,” he told the Pioneer as firefighters battled the blaze, which devoured essentially everything he owned besides a bit of cash, his robe and a few wizard hats.
Chief Miller said people seem to gamble with fire insurance and that some “will opt out because of the cost” especially if they face higher insurance fees because they live outside the zones where firefighters will respond.
“It’s a lot like the risk that people will take on a vehicle that’s not really old and not really new. They don’t owe money on it, so they don’t buy collision (insurance). They just buy basic. Well darn it, all of a sudden something happens and they lost that car. Well it’s the luck of the draw. You take that chance,” he said. “The trouble with (fire insurance) to some degree is that it’s not mandatory unless you have a mortgage.”
While he empathizes with those who struggle with insurance costs, his response for anyone who says they can’t afford insurance is that not having it could cost them far more.
“Can you afford to walk away from everything and start over?” he asked. “‘Cause you may very well have to if you have a fire.”