Uninsured homeowners lose everything to fires

- Insurance companies are being flooded with questions from homeowners around the brush fires burning in Polk County. Many are wondering, "Am I insured for this?"

The companies say - depending on where you live - you could be looking at more costly fire coverage. Many rural areas do not have fire hydrants, and plenty of trees. That causes a higher insurance cost, but some people could be regretting not being covered after brush fires left them with nothing.

Flames scorched their fence - and put their neighbors out of their homes. But somehow, Tim Hardee’s family house managed to survive the blaze.

"Everything on both sides of these two properties is burnt to smithereens," Tim Hardee told FOX 13 News. "We're just giving credit to Yahweh for saving our place."

The family was able to return Thursday, a day after they evacuated. Electric crews worked to fix charred lines and restore power. Some in the Lake Wales area didn't fare as well in the brush fire, and now are left with no way to repair their homes due to a lack of insurance.

"My mobile home was really nice inside, and it's gone. It was too old to insure," Rich Jones said.

Getting insured is too costly for some residents. Properties off County Road 630 are what insurers classify as level 9 and 10 protections.

"Once you start getting into protection class 9 or 10, then the insurance rates start to get a little higher, because it's higher risk. You're further away from a fire hydrant; you're further away from the fire stations,” explained Sanjuanita Escobar, and insurance agent with Lock Insurance.

The nearest fire department is more than 15 miles away from homes on the county road. Escobar says, for those uncertain if they're home insurance covers brush fires, the answer is typically ‘yes.’

"As long as you have paid your deductible, your insurance company will cover it. Fire is covered under 'all other perils,'" she explained.

Perils usually include natural disasters like strong winds, lightning, or brush fires. The biggest mistake people often make - and regret - after a disaster like this, is only covering their home structure and not their belongings in or outside of it.

"Look at your 'other structures' coverage, which will be coverage B,” Escobar said. “That would cover like, fences and sheds.”

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