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Disaster declaration covers county, tribes, not individuals

LISTEN:
Smoke rises in the distance as a vehicle travels Highway 153 Saturday, July 19, 2014, near Carlton, Wash. On Tuesday, the White House denied the state's request for individual assistance, such as low-interest loans and grants, for homeowners and business owners. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Some property owners who lost homes in the Washington wildfires had no insurance. There’s still more bad news. Although President Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state Monday, it applies to local government, specifically Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

On Tuesday, the White House denied the state’s request for individual assistance, such as low-interest loans and grants, for homeowners and business owners.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced he will appeal the decision.

“Hundreds of individuals and families were dealt a significant blow by the state’s worst wildfire,” said Inslee in a statement. “These people are starting over. They need help with basic necessities. The state is doing everything it can to ensure these families get the assistance they need to recover from the devastating fires, including federal assistance.”

Karl Newman, President of the Northwest Insurance Council, said people without homeowner’s insurance risk losing their home and their equity.

“Your best bet is always to have a homeowner’s insurance policy which, less your deductible and up to your limits will rebuild your home right away and you don’t owe anything extra. The average, in the state of Washington, is about $50 a month, protecting for what most of us is our most valuable asset.”

The cost of homeowners insurance might be higher in some areas where wildfires are common.

“If you’re beyond a thousand feet from a fire hydrant, you’re automatically going to pay more for your insurance. You might pay twice as much if you’re outside a fire protection area, said Newman.”

In rare cases, insurance companies will not sell policies at all.

“If you look at the Oso tragedy, if you look at some of the properties that are burned out, if you can’t get insurance in an area, you might want to consider living somewhere else,” said Newman. “Only because insurance companies want to write policies and if they won’t write it, it’s pretty dangerous.”

Statistics on the number of uninsured properties damaged or destroyed by wildfire in Washington this season were not available Tuesday.

Newman said insurance companies will work with homeowners in fire zones on strategies to lower their premiums, such as installing fire resistant roofing and building defensible zones around their structures.

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