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Two Couples, Different Paths When It Comes To High Park Fire Home Loss

Grace Hood

One year after the High Park Fire destroyed 259 homes, insurance woes, money and time are three major obstacles preventing the majority of High Park Fire victims from rebuilding.

Add on top of that a thick layer of emotions and you start to get a picture of the ongoing challenges.

Today just nine households have rebuilt and crossed the finish line. Among them are Gary and Martha Lemert, who moved into their home off Davis Ranch Road this spring. They say purchasing a manufactured home sped up the process. They did run into a snag in paying off their old mortgage—a burden many wildfire victims have to deal with.

“We could not have replaced all the out buildings; we were about $100,000 short of being able to do all of that,” said Martha.

Credit Grace Hood / KUNC
Gary and Martha Lemert are one of just nine homeowners who have completed the rebuild process in a 1-year time frame.

Along the 15 miles of Davis Ranch Road, 54 homes were destroyed by the High Park Fire. About 6 will be rebuilt inside the 1-year time frame. That’s according to Dale Snyder, a Davis Ranch resident and wildfire victim who spent the last year pushing for insurance reform. That bill [.pdf] was just signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper.

“It’s not uncommon for people to take 6-8 months—even longer sometimes—to get through the planning process, engineering process and permit process,” said Snyder. “People have no idea what you’re dealing with.”

Among the changes are that insurance companies are required to offer additional living expense (ALE) coverage for at least 12 months. Insurers are also required to offer the option of ALE for 2 years. Homeowners will now have 365 days in the event of a total loss to submit their contents list for reimbursement. Previously policies varied in time limits.

“In our policy that we had, we had 60 days. We lost 30 upfront for the fire because of how long it drug out,” said Snyder.

Ultimately Dale and his wife, Marilyn, are still deciding whether they’ll rebuild their home. It doesn’t help that the Snyders were underinsured by about $70,000.

“After you have an event like this, people think one year’s a long time,” said Dale. “It’s a blink of the eye with everything you have to do.”

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