Many are dealing with insurance nightmares as they fight to get the money they need to replace what they lost. Those survivors are not alone, the state now estimates most Colorado homeowners are severely underinsured.
“At times, it’s been really hard to accept the reality that it really happened,” Trevor Ackerman who lost everything in the fire said.
As the weeks pass by in Boulder County, the landscape continues to change. Backhoes are clearing what is left of the homes now reduced to rubble.
“So where the big hole is, is where our home was,” Ackerman said. “We had a big maple tree here.”
His garden and his raspberries are all that remain on his Louisville property.
“It’s cool that they’re growing back,” he said. “Seems like whenever you get them from your own garden, they’re always extra sweet.”
However, sweetness has been tough to find. The Marshall Fire survivor now spends most of his time in his parent’s basement fighting over insurance.
“Even after the fire, we thought ‘oh, I think we’re okay.’ Now, we know differently,” he said.
Ackerman is not alone. The state estimates that 55% of Marshall Fire survivors are underinsured at current building costs.
“We have to find a solution for this problem going forward,” Michael Conway, the state’s commissioner of insurance said.
Conway’s office is finding most Coloradans are likely underinsured by tens of thousands of dollars.
“Fires can hit everywhere, and it’s incredibly important for folks to be updating their policies and to understand how much coverage they have,” Conway said.
Elsie Chavez said she never updated her insurance company on the changes she made to her Superior home.
“My house was a double wide, but my house never looked like a double wide. I did everything just like a house,” Chavez said.
Now, she’s finding out she won’t get enough to replace what she had.
“We can’t afford to build a stick home, we don’t have that kind of money. But, whatever we can get it, we’re going to stay here,” Chavez said. “My message to anyone, please, please check insurances and make sure they know what you’ve done to your places. Get insurance for your places.”
The state is now looking into changes that would require insurance companies to be more transparent about coverage.
“You’re dealing with someone who deals with disasters and with claims, and they give you a number and somehow they’re not responsible or accountable for standing behind that number as actually covering you,” Ackerman said.
The Ackermans said they’ve been given $527,000 by State Farm, but said quotes from builders are coming in closer to $775,000 to rebuild.
“Given the circumstances of a federally declared natural disaster, they need to skip this whole process and simply pay everybody out,” Ackerman said.
In the meantime, he said he has no plans to give up his fight to replace the exact home he lost. He is ready to return home, ready for new memories in the months and years to come.
“I’m looking forward to enjoying those memories again,” Ackerman said.