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Considerations after a wildfire

Every wildfire affects survivors differently. Consider these general suggestions and do what makes sense for your situation.

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    Your local officials should make an announcement when your area is safe to enter.

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    If the governor declares a state of emergency, your area should have a Local Assistance Center. The center can help you with all of the steps on this list.

    Otherwise, you can contact Red Cross and FEMA.

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    Go to any DMV office or your Local Assistance Center to replace your lost driver’s license or ID card. They can look up your name and picture to send you a new ID. Then, you can use your driver’s license to replace your birth certificate and other important documents.

    If the governor has declared a state of emergency, your drivers license should be processed within a week.

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    Ask the DMV about vehicles registered under any name you’ve had. They will help you junk your burned vehicles. That way, you can get paid back for your vehicle licensing fees. And you won’t owe any future fees to the DMV on that vehicle.

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    If you have insurance, report any burned vehicles to your insurance company.

    • They should make a settlement on your vehicle and pay you for it.
    • Next you’ll file a Notice of Release of Liability so that you’re no longer legally responsible for the vehicle.
    • If you own your vehicle outright (that is, you don’t lease it), you should transfer the title to your insurance company. Then you’ll no longer own it.

    If you still own your vehicle and you don’t know where it is, you might get a bill from a storage or tow company. Ask the California Highway Patrol to help find your vehicle.

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    Local officials should tell you when it’s safe to turn on your water, gas, and electricity. If the fire department has shut them off, it’s unsafe to turn them on yourself.

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    If you have home or renters insurance, report the fire to them. Find out how they want you to make a list of things that were lost or damaged in the fire. Make sure that your insurance pays you for the cost to rebuild or move to a new home in California today. That includes the current cost of building permits, regulations, materials, and labor.

    If you have a Local Assistance Center, ask for their advice about reporting the wildfire to your insurance company. Housing advocates are there to help you get payments to replace what you’ve lost.

    If you don’t have home or renters insurance, you can contact your Local Assistance Center, Red Cross, or FEMA for help.

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    Contact your landlord or mortgage company to learn if they’ll let you pause on payments. They could also save you from late fees or a lower credit score.

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    After large wildfires, there are usually a few stages to debris removal:

    1. We will remove dangerous waste, such as lead and asbestos.
    2. We will also remove debris from your property for free if you send us a Right of Entry Form. Please note that we will remove your foundation. If you want to keep it, you could choose to remove debris on your own. Then, you could check if your foundation is able to be saved or repaired.
    3. You’ll have to remove dangerous trees from your property.
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    Let your local police department know if you temporarily leave your home. That way, they’ll know your property should be empty, and they can help to protect it.

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    You may need your receipts later to get the payments you need from your insurance company. The receipts will also help you include your losses on your tax return.