Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Walk through time

May 9th, 2007 - Early afternoon. I meet the adjuster (Kym) and her builder on location and begin the property walk through. The place is a mess. Burnt and damaged vinyl everywhere, the place smells like 100 cigarette smokers and the floors are covered with gypsum and wool insulation. Next door, CFD is pumping more water into the burned out hole in the ground that was supposed to be Condos.

We start with a discussion of the board-up that is still ongoing. The ground floors are boarded where there are no windows. The windows on the fire side are completely melted and in some spots the walls are burned through. The larger damage has been covered with blue tarps. The ceilings on the second floor are gone and you can see the fire damage to the roofing timbers. At this point there's not much to look at and the smoke smell is getting to me, so I leave the adjuster to her work and go outside.

Looking around outside tells a story itself. The fire was so hot, it melted vinyl across the street and even across the street and one door down. A house across the alley had a wooden fence and storage shed. They both ignited and were badly burned. I walk around the property and run into several of the neighbors. One is a retired lady who lives across the street in the former Methodist church parsonage with her husband. She is watering flowers wilted by the heat. Her house has damaged vinyl siding and the windows on her front porch are damaged and won't open. I ask if she's called her insurance company and she says she has. I mention I would have gotten a repair estimate first then called my insurance company, but then again, I carry higher deductibles than most.

In the insurance biz, Property & Casualty companies keep track of claims filed through a service called CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange). Based on their CLUE contract, insurance companies are required to report claims to CLUE even if no action was taken or money paid out. Since fire claims get a lot of attention from property underwriters, filing a small claim is probably a bad idea. Too late. Anyhow between replacing two double windows ($800) and matching vinyl siding, we're probably looking at $1500 or so for the claim. Probably more than most people want to pay out of pocket. I also talk to the guy who's fence was burned. Outside his fence, there is a melted trash container. One of the large rolling units provided by the City of Columbus. I suggest he borrow one from the back of my property since it's still intact. He too has been in contact with his insurance company. I hate repeating myself so I don't.

He does provide another clue to what happened in the house that caught fire; apparently it was the owner inside running a circular saw that started the fire. He says the inside had not been drywalled yet so when the fire started it went up like a torch. I didn't realize insulation was so flammable. Guess I'll have to research that. So much for a contractor with insurance to subrogate the claim.

Returning to the front porch I notice something. The outside of the wall that faced this intense heat is fairly intact. On closer inspection I discover an old Columbus trick: the vinyl siding had been installed on top of asbestos shingles. See in some cities, building code are rigidly enforced, asbestos is abated (properly removed and disposed of) and things like this would never happen. In Columbus, unless you're building a nuclear power plant, the city is pretty unaware of building and code violations. Well, regardless of what your position on asbestos is, without those shingles my house would have been a smoking hole in the ground. I do point out the shingles to Kym, she makes a note and will determine if there is a code-enforcement endorsement in my policy (I know there is). I leave to return to work and she continues on inventorying the house and measuring rooms.

Later that afternoon I fax copies of the leases to Kym and wait to hear back. Since I don't hear from her again until the following Monday, my next post will detail homeowner coverage and how it applied to my dwelling fire policy.


No comments: