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Immediate Safety

Although wildfire damage can be immeasurable, the danger is not over after the flames are put out. Flash flooding and debris flows, structural damage, road instability, and damaged trees are just some of the dangers that exist after a wildfire. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Stay away from your home or business until fire officials tell you it is safe to return.
  • Flash floods are a very real and potentially deadly hazard after a wildfire, particularly as a result of rain falling over a burned area upstream of your location. Stay away from burned forests, storm channels, and natural drainages (rivers, creeks, and engineered channels can convey deadly flows of water and debris, especially after a wildfire). Have a battery-powered radio to listen for emergency updates, weather forecasts, reports of flash flooding, and news reports.
  • Have an evacuation plan in place and make sure all family members are familiar with it.
  • Be aware of and use extreme caution around trees, power poles, and other tall objects or structures that may have lost stability during the fire. Most burned structures and surfaces will be unstable. Stay out of burned forests during windy conditions, as burned trees are easily downed by wind. Do not touch any power lines.
  • Keep a “fire watch.” That means look for smoke or sparks throughout the house and on rooftops (e.g., in gutters), etc. Look for ash pits or hidden embers. Stay away – they can burn you.
  • Before inspecting your home, first check for the smell of gas. Turn off power until you’ve completed your inspection. Use a battery-powered flashlight to inspect a damaged home. (Note: the flashlight should be turned on outside before entering. The battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.)
  • Do not drink or use water from the faucet until emergency officials say it is okay; water supply systems can be damaged and become polluted during wildfires or as a result of subsequent post-fire flooding. If your well has been damaged by fire, contact a local licensed and bonded well constructor or pump installer to determine the extent of the damage and what must be done to either repair or decommission the well.
  • Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke, flood waters, or soot.
  • Utilities: If there is no power, check to make sure the main breaker is on. If the breakers are on and power is still not present, contact the utility company. If you have a propane tank or system, contact a propane supplier, turn off valves on the system, and leave valves closed until the supplier inspects your system. If you have a heating oil tank system, contact a heating oil supplier for an inspection of your system before you use it. If you have a solar electrical system, this system should be inspected by a licensed technician to verify that the solar panels and electrical wiring are safe for continued operation.

Insurance Steps

1. Call your insurance agent immediately. You will be getting calls at all hours of the day from public adjusters and contractors who will try to offer you a deal on putting your house back together. These calls can create a lot of stress and confusion. I suggest you speak to no one but your agent to discuss your options at this point in the process.

2. Ask about restoration companies that can help with cleaning up soot, boarding up windows, and other construction. Immediately after a fire, especially if it is a minor one, you’ll need to clean up any soot or water damage. It is important to hire a reputable service to deal with these issues. Ask your agent or insurance adjuster to recommend a few different companies. They deal with these situations more often than you do and likely know of some businesses that fit your needs. Many of these restoration companies have connections to good contractors, engineers, and architects, as well.

3. Separate damaged property from undamaged property. The insurance company will need a detailed inventory list from you after they inspect the loss. Separating your damaged property from your undamaged property will make it easier for you to make a list of your damaged items. This list needs to include the date you purchased each item, the brand name, the price you paid, and the serial number, model, or description of each item. If the item was a gift, be sure to indicate that as well.

It’s a good idea to submit your receipts with this inventory list. If the receipts were destroyed in the fire, or you didn’t keep any receipts, request copies of prior bank statements. This can make obtaining duplicate receipts easier. Keep in mind that photos of any damaged items are always helpful if receipts are not available.

4. Save undamaged property from further destruction. Any items that are not damaged should be put in a safe place, even if it means putting them in storage. Insurance adjusters are typically fair when it comes to adding additional costs for storage.

5. Cooperate fully with the insurance company’s investigation. When a fire claim is reported to an insurance company, it is given top priority. Usually the adjusters come out to see the loss within 24 to 48 hours. To help settle your claim in a timely manner and to your satisfaction, be sure you are available and on time for all meetings, that you return calls promptly, that any requested paperwork is completed as quickly as possible, and that you contact the company or your agent immediately with any questions.

6. Find somewhere to stay if you can’t live in your home. Most homeowner’s policies include “Loss of Use or Loss of Rents” coverage, which will pay for the food, clothing, and shelter that you and your family may need for a specified period of time. Keep in mind that your policy will pay for “like kind and quality” living arrangements. We’ve partnered with several property management companies to list homes available for rent.

Select your jurisdiction to access your Rebuilding Steps & Guidelines

Shasta County Department of Resource Management
City Of Redding Building Department
Trinity County Building Department

California Building Code Upgrades

The California Building Code (CBC) has expanded significantly over the past 60 years. The CBC is revised and updated regularly. The CBC was further expanded by inclusion of the California Residential Code (CRC) in 2010. The California Energy Code has required substantial energy efficiency increases over the last four code cycles (12 years). The California Green Building Code was adopted in 2010, which added more requirements. This is a partial list of “code upgrades” a replacement home will require. The year the home was built and the year of any remodel and/or addition can impact the amount of “code upgrades.”

California Building Code Upgrades

Resources and Tips for Selecting and Working with Contractors and Other Vendors During Your Rebuild

Contractors State License Board (CSLB) Disaster Help

Unscrupulous, unlicensed contractors often prey on victims of natural disasters. It is a felony to contract without a license in a declared disaster area. Consumers can protect themselves by using CSLB’s resources to check a contractor’s license status and history. Below you will find links to a number of resources to help with this.

The City of Redding and Shasta County are not approving or recommending specific contractors for fire-related recovery efforts. Licensed contractors are registered with the State Licensing Board, and members of the public can find details about these contractors at http://www.cslb.ca.gov/ or by calling 800-321-2752. Contractors who are not yet listed on the Licensing Board’s website can contact the Board to be added.

CSLB Disaster Help Center

Shasta Builder Exchange

Unlicensed or Fraudulent Contractors

As a result of increased demand for construction services, many unlicensed contractors seek out work.  Please check with the Contractor’s State Licensing Board website to make sure that the contractor you hire is licensed, insured and bonded at  http://www.cslb.ca.gov/  and that they have the appropriate specialty license if required.  Contracting without a license is a crime and enhanced penalties are provided for contracting without a license during a state of emergency.  Reports of unlicensed contractors can also be made on the website.

Additionally, some contractors may take on more work that they are able to perform or try to extract a greater deposit than the $1,000 deposit they are authorized by law to require before work commences.  Reports of any problems with licensed contractors should also be reported to the State Contractors Board.

Contractor fraud involves illegal acts committed by unlicensed or unscrupulous contractors and includes performing substandard repairs, offering services that deliberately cheat a consumer, or contracting without a license. Contractors may also attempt to commit construction fraud, which includes knowingly obtaining money, property, or labor by false pretense.

Therefore, before signing a contract with a contractor for any wildfire-related repairs or rebuilding, consumers are encouraged to follow these guidelines:

  • Do not do anything based only on a handshake. For both home improvement projects and new construction of single family homes, there must be a contract in writing signed by both parties and the consumer must be furnished a copy of the written agreement (signed by the contractor) before work starts. Additionally, all changes to the original contract must be made in writing and signed by both parties. After a disaster, consumers have seven business days to cancel a contract, as long as it was not signed in the contractor’s place of business.
  • Be cautious when making a down payment because it is common for fraudsters who receive a big down payment to then disappear without completing any of the contracted work. For a home improvement job in California the down payment can total no more than 10% of the contract price or $1,000, whichever is less.
  • It is illegal for an unlicensed person to advertise that they can do construction work unless the person clearly states that they are “not a licensed contractor.” The person must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to contract for work that costs $500 or more (labor and materials).
  • The contractors license number and business name must be displayed on all commercially registered vehicles used in the course of business. Additionally, the contractors license number must be listed on any contract, bid, or advertisement for construction work.
  • Fraudsters may steal a business name and/or license number and represent it as their own or say that they work for a licensed contractor even though they are actually not affiliated with that contractor. For a home improvement project, only someone with a contractors license, or an employee of a licensed contractor who is a registered Home Improvement Salesperson on file with the CSLB, is allowed to give a bid and/or sign a contract.
  • Consumers can use the “Instant License Check” feature on the CSLB website to look up a contractor or Home Improvement Salesperson by name, license number, or doing business as (DBA), to verify that they are in fact a licensed contractor or registered Home Improvement Salesperson. Consumers can also get a wealth of information on rebuilding after a disaster by visiting the “Disaster Help Center” on the CSLB website.

It is a felony to contract without a license in a declared disaster area. Additionally, any person involved in a scheme to defraud a consumer of a residential or nonresidential structure in connection with the offer or performance of repairs to the structure for damage caused by a natural disaster could be ordered to make full restitution to the victim and/or pay a fine of up to $25,000 and could also be imprisoned.

If you believe you have been the victim of a disaster-related contractor or construction fraud, please contact the FBI San Francisco Division at 415-553-7400 or https://tips.fbi.gov or the Contractors State License Board at 800-321-2752 or www.cslb.ca.gov.

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