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Commissioner Kreidler urges insurers to modify claims process for wildfire victims

March 6, 2024

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler on Wednesday sent a letter to insurers (PDF, 173.91 KB) urging them to consider loosening personal property claim filing requirements for victims of last summer’s Spokane County wildfires.

Insurance companies typically require policyholders to provide a full, itemized list of all personal property lost in the inciting incident to settle a claim. 

In the letter, Kreidler asked insurers to adjust those requirements and allow for the grouping of like items for consideration — for example, listing “six sweaters,” rather than an individual size and make for each shirt.

“Unlike a normal house fire, a wildfire often completely consumes the residence and all it contains. This means people are unable to sort through the debris to find evidence of personal property loss and must rely on their memory to generate lists,” Kreidler wrote. “These wildfire victims have lost everything in their homes; an itemized list could easily be over 5,000 line items."

Additionally, Kreidler requested insurers consider adopting the same procedure in Washington they use in neighboring states that have experienced devastating wildfire loss — provide people with a percentage of their policy’s total liability limits without requiring an itemized list of losses. Kreidler suggested policyholders should get at least 70% of their home’s personal property coverage, the same figure used in Oregon after a Governor’s emergency declaration.

The Gray and Oregon Road fires destroyed more than 350 homes in the Spokane area last August. President Joe Biden signed a federal disaster declaration for the area in February, unlocking FEMA Individual Assistance funding for victims (fema.gov). Kreidler’s office sent representatives to Medical Lake and Elk last week to help answer insurance questions from people impacted by the fires.