October 8th-9th, 2017
We weren’t there. We woke to voicemails from the alarm company; the cameras were off line, and had not come back, the power had gone off about 11:30pm the night before, and the last message from the alarm system was smoke in one of the downstairs bedrooms, that was at 3:23am.
Over the next 24hrs we streamed KPIX for news – all indications were that this was a devastating event. A fire started on Tubbs Ln, in Calistoga, near the north end of the Napa valley, and had blown westward through a canyon in the Mayacamas mountains into Santa Rosa. It started as a very dry, windy night – less than 10% humidity and 30-40mph gusts.
(Nest camera in the front yard, facing North, about 11pm Sunday October 8th, 2017)
Then power lines apparently sparked several fires across Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties.
We bought flights to head down to figure out what happened, but we were not optimistic given the graphic images. We started our insurance claim that day…
October 11th, 2017
We flew down to Santa Rosa, immediately drove in the direction of our home, but quickly discovered we couldn’t get to our house. We suspected there would be substantial damage, so we made contact with an insurance company that was hosting Nationwide agents – I was hesitant to take the $10,000 advance they were offering against our claim. Little did I know we would use all of that advance in the coming months.
We also went to the Santa Rosa building department, and asked for the plans to our house. They didn’t find our as-built house plans, but they did have our building permit, which had our architect, engineering firms, and builder described. Fortunately for us, many of these firms were still in business.
At dinner, we got a text from a police officer patrolling our neighborhood, the husband of a contact Stephanie had made. The picture showed the Santa Rosa city lights through our bedroom wall…
October 12th, 2017
In the afternoon of the next day, we managed to get up to see our property. Driving up, we could see that it was almost total devastation, perhaps a single house standing in each neighborhood. Our house was completely destroyed, save the wall of our walk-in closet.
Our neighbors were in a similar situation. Everything that could burn, did. Glass melted together with ceramics and floor tiles; on the streets you would sometimes see melted aluminum car wheel rims; the gold in our neighbor’s safe was in a puddle.
October 13th, 2017
We met with our Nationwide adjuster. Dwayne had warned us the day before to try and recreate the floorplan for the house so we could start to enumerate and describe the rooms. We met him that afternoon at Lagunitas brewhouse – I believe we were his first client, having just flown into Sacramento a few hours earlier. He took our interview, describing the house, the fit and finish of rooms and fixtures. He asked if we planned to rebuilt – we responded ‘yes’. Given that, he explained the process for the claim on the structure going forward.
Dwayne and Nationwide would first determine the actual cash value (ACV) of the house – the depreciated value of the house as it stood just before the fire, and what it would take to rebuild it to that state. This would form the basis of our initial payout of the claim. It’s what people who don’t decide to rebuild would get in their settlement.
Since we were planning to rebuild, Nationwide would continue to pay to replace and rebuild the house, with code improvements, up to the limits of our policy – replacement value.
The next day we met with a second adjuster, Shirl, who would be handling just the personal property part of our claim. Since we had just been moving in over the course of the last year, we didn’t have years of accumulated stuff, but still, it was a daunting task to consider.