MANNFORD — The wildfires that torched scores of homes and other structures in recent days left “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damage, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak estimated Monday.
And much of that destroyed property is uninsured, Doak said.
“My heart goes out to people who don't have insurance,” Doak said.
Oklahoma, which is among the worst states for the number of drivers who lack required vehicle insurance, also appears to have a large number of uninsured homes, Doak said.
“Insurance is not mandated on a home once you have it paid off. It is a personal choice,” he said. “We hate to see anybody without insurance.”
Faith-based and charitable organizations are working to help those uninsured Oklahomans who suffered losses from the wildfires, Doak said.
An estimate of the losses from the fires is hard to gauge, Doak said. “Statewide, I would put it in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
Command post set up
Doak's agency set up a command post near Mannford and has representatives helping fire victims in Sand Springs, Drumright and Bristow.
“When somebody's home is completely burned down, they have no cellphone, they have no wallet, they have no insurance information,” he said. “It's a place they can come and we can answer consumer questions and make sure their insurance claims are moving along.”
The Insurance Department has asked companies to come to the Mannford site to create a one-stop location for those who suffered losses in the area, Doak said.
One of the state's major property and casualty insurance providers, Allstate Insurance Co., has sent one of its Catastrophe Response Vehicles to the area, company spokeswoman Kari Mather said. The vehicle is equipped to help customers file claims and get answers to insurance questions, Mather said.
Having several resources in one site also can reduce incidents of fraud, which often follow in the wake of disaster, Doak said.
“We've dealt with an awful lot of consumers today,” he said Monday.
Unfortunately, Doak said, the agency and the industry has gained a lot of experience in dealing with disaster in recent months with earthquakes in Lincoln County, a major hailstorm and tornadoes.
“It's a very traumatic time for Oklahoma consumers,” he said.
Post-disaster needs aren't limited to property and casualty concerns, Doak said. Agency workers were able to help a woman with multiple sclerosis get needed medicine after her supply, her prescription and her address were lost in the fire, he said.
Praise for responders
The upside is the damage could have been much worse, Doak said.
“Oklahoma firefighters have done a fabulous job with protecting property for Oklahomans. While we've lost many structures, touring this from the air with the governor, both of us would agree what a great job firefighters have done to save as much property as they can,” he said.
“We saw places where the fire burned up to the edges of a home. They saved the home but may have lost the grassland.”
At 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Doak, joined by local leaders and insurance industry representatives, will deliver an insurance update regarding the recent wildfires at Lake Church in Mannford.
Oklahomans can reach the Oklahoma Insurance Department's Consumer Assistance team toll-free at (800) 522-0071 or online at oid.ok.gov.