FORT MAC 97% of wild­fire in­sur­ance claims have been set­tled

Wood Buf­falo res­i­dent says lots of peo­ple like her felt pres­sure to fi­nal­ize process

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA GRANEY egraney@post­media.com twit­ter.com/Em­maLGraney

Around 97 per cent of in­sur­ance claims re­sult­ing from the Fort Mc­Mur­ray wild­fire have been set­tled, with 900 yet to be re­solved.

Alberta’s In­sur­ance Act sets out a two-year dead­line for prop­erty claims to be set­tled, but Fi­nance Min­is­ter Joe Ceci said Wed­nes­day in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have agreed to ex­tend that dead­line on a caseby-case ba­sis.

“This is a sig­nif­i­cant re­sult that will help the res­i­dents of Wood Buf­falo to re­cover. We won’t let up in our ef­forts to sup­port the vic­tims of the wild­fire,” he said.

Lisa Ni­chols’ claim was one of those fi­nal­ized, but she feels it was never ad­e­quately re­solved.

Her frus­tra­tion was ev­i­dent in a tele­phone in­ter­view Wed­nes­day as she ex­plained how she felt backed into a cor­ner by her in­sur­ance com­pany.

They gave her a fi­nal po­si­tion let­ter just be­fore Christ­mas — prior to the ex­ten­sion be­ing an­nounced.

“Tak­ing them to court would have cost $40,000 and it would have been five years down the road — and we just couldn’t af­ford to do that,” she said.

“There were a lot of peo­ple rush­ing to set­tle at the 19th hour, be­cause they didn’t feel like they had a choice.”

There were a lot of peo­ple rush­ing to set­tle at the 19th hour, be­cause they didn’t feel like they had a choice.

Ni­chols, her part­ner and daugh­ter are still liv­ing in their base­ment suite as they work to make the up­stairs of their home liv­able — and pay­ing for a lot of the fixes out of pocket.

She es­ti­mates an­other $20,000 of work is yet to come.

“I don’t want any­one to go through what we did,” she said.

The in­sur­ance in­dus­try is ex­pect­ing to pay out $3.7 bil­lion to pol­i­cy­hold­ers in the Wood Buf­falo re­gion.

Bill Adams of the In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada said in­dus­try’s fo­cus isn’t on the work done so far, but on work­ing with Al­ber­tans who have out­stand­ing claims to help them fi­nal­ize the process.

Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Shaye An­der­son vis­ited the re­gion last month.

“Homes are be­ing re­built, busi­nesses are grow­ing, and life is get­ting back to how it was be­fore,” he told re­porters Wed­nes­day.

By late last month, he said, more than 2,000 de­vel­op­ment per­mits and 520 oc­cu­pancy per­mits had been ap­proved.

“Con­fi­dence is grow­ing ... and I firmly be­lieve we are all mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion to­gether,” he said.

The fire re­sulted in 25,499 res­i­den­tial, 4,151 com­mer­cial and 14,444 au­to­mo­bile in­sur­ance claims.

IAN KUCERAK

Bill Adams of the In­sur­ance Bureau of Canada says the in­dus­try’s fo­cus is on work­ing to help Al­ber­tans fi­nal­ize claims from the Fort Mc­Mur­ray wild­fire. In­sur­ance firms have agreed to ex­tend the two-year dead­line for set­tling prop­erty claims on a case-by-case ba­sis.

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