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Woolsey Fire Destruction: Answers For Homeowners Dealing With Insurance Claims

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Hundreds of people are now faced with the task of rebuilding their homes and lives after the Woolsey Fire burned through more than 90,000 acres.

An estimated 370 homes were destroyed in the blaze, with hundreds more considered likely once the tally is finalized.

Many parts of Malibu, Calabasas, Bell Canyon, Hidden Hills, Liberty Canyon and Topanga Canyon remained under mandatory evacuation Monday.

Re-population had begun for parts of Agoura Hills and Westlake Village -- for areas just north of the 101 Freeway -- along with Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Oak Park, West Hills, North Ranch, Newbury Park and Wood Ranch.

State Farm Insurance Agent Rita Hagopian visited one of the local evacuation centers, where she was asked numerous questions by homeowners looking for answers amid the devastation.

"Most people are just confused and scared, and just want somebody to talk to. People aren't as concerned about, 'OK, let me get this or get that right away' – they just want somebody to talk to right now," she said.

How soon do you need to make that call to your insurance agent once something like this happens?

"As soon as possible, as soon as you're in a safe location...If you've already suffered damages, contact your State Farm agent, call 1-800-SF-CLAIM, go to – I mean there's a slew of ways, your mobile app, as soon as possible," Hagopian said.

What things are covered and what are not?

"There's so many different coverages within a homeowners policy. Our claims teams are right now on the ground level with the agents working to help each client go through those questions and see what they can do, help them rebuild, work with them as much as possible. I mean, during catastrophes, it's really overwhelming," she said.

So you lose your home, you're living somewhere – a hotel, perhaps going to be for quite a while – what kind of living expenses are also covered with homeowners insurance? Can you get any of that money back?

"What we ask is that you collect all your documentation of all those excess costs, and hopefully when the dust settles, they look at everything and break it down, and they can be reimbursed, ideally," Hagopian said.

What about homeowners who lived in high-risk areas and refused to evacuate?

"We really want people to be safe and listen to authorities. It's very, very important that they do so. But they need to be prepared, they need to have evacuation plans, they need to create it, they need to go over it, their family needs to know where to meet, who they're supposed to call. A part of being prepared is going through your home and videoing your personal property. Having that inventory, it helps a lot at the time where a claim needs to be submitted," she said.

Will it be harder for people to get insurance if they have a large claim now?

"Ideally, they already have insurance plan in place, and they shouldn't have a problem after that, and their company should stand with them," Hagopian said.

For more information, contact the California Department of Insurance through their consumer hotline at 800-927-4357.

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