Waldo Canyon Fire Victim Unveils Survival Tips

Taken from Woodland Park of Waldo Canyon Fire Photo by CR Chambers
Taken from Woodland Park of Waldo Canyon Fire Photo by CR Chambers

~ by Bob Volpe ~

It has been six years since the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 347 homes in Colorado Springs and led to mandatory and standby evacuation orders from Cascade to Woodland Park.

In addition, many area residents were stranded for weeks, and local commerce took a major beating.

The drought conditions of 2012 when the fire occurred were severe. This year drought conditions are eerily similar to those in 2012, a scenario that is making firefighters and emergency responders quite nervous. Fire bans were initiated much earlier than the last few years.

At last week’s regular meeting of the Woodland Park City Council, Howard Donaldson, a Waldo Canyon fire victim, addressed council on steps residents must take to be prepare in the event a wildfire threatens or destroys their homes.

Mr. Harold Donaldson addressed council on lessons learned from the Waldo Canyon fire of 2012. photo by Bob Volpe

Donaldson lost his home to the Waldo Canyon fire and knows what it means to deal with such a devastating loss. He began his presentation with steps to take to protect your home by creating a buffer zone around your home that reduces the heavy fuel sources that can endanger your structures. These steps include removing trees that grow close to your house, as well as, consulting experts who will look at your home and make recommendations on mitigation, and following guidelines provided by your local fire protection district to lessen the likelihood of your house going up in smoke during a wildfire.

Aside from the obvious mitigation efforts residents must take, Donaldson covered in great detail the less obvious issue of home owner’s insurance. Before it’s too late, Donaldson suggests homeowners review their insurance policy and know what their coverage actually covers, and how much coverage is needed should a fire completely destroy your home. He said, “Review your insurance. Make sure you know
what you have, make sure it is adequate.”

 Scrutinize Your Insurance Policy


The four areas of your insurance policy Donaldson suggests you review are: Dwelling, Appurtenant Structures, Contents, and Temporary Living Expenses.

Donaldson said, “The first question you need to ask your agent is, ‘If I have a total loss, What are you going to pay for?’ It’s a simple question but it has a complex answer and you need to know what they’re talking about when they answer that question.”

On your dwelling, Donaldson said, “Do not make the mistake of thinking that you should only insure your house for the fair market value. That will not be sufficient.” He explained replacing your home will cost 35 to 40 percent more than what you could sell it for.

He spoke of his personal experience on this. Donaldson also suggests you ask your agent how they determine what your coverage should be.

“They are the experts. They should determine what your coverage should be.”

An interesting lawsuit in California is underway which states; if an insurance company under insures your home, they have to pay you the actual cost because it is their fault they got the coverage wrong.

This is important because the rest of your coverage is dictated by a percentage of loss based on the coverage of the dwelling.

Appurtenant structures not only include your garage, sheds or barn, but also include retaining walls, driveways, sidewalks, and so forth.

You need to be sure your policy coverage is sufficient to replace these incidental structures, according to the Waldo Canyon fire victim.

The contents or personal property coverage in your policy should be enough to include items such as irreplaceable antiques, coin collections, gun collections, etc. The average policy will cover 75 percent of 75 percent of the total loss. This means the policy has a 25 percent depreciation built into your loss. You should be sure your policy has a replacement cost clause in it. This will allow the replacement of your loss even if the lost items are old.

Temporary living expenses are the part of your policy that allows you to live in a motel or other place while your home is being rebuilt.

Typically this coverage allows for one year of living outside your home and allows for an extension to two years. Some policies only allow six months. Be sure you know what coverage you have since six months is rarely enough time to rebuild your home.

The threat of wildfire is an ongoing danger to those living in a rural, heavily wooded area like the Ute Pass region. Having adequate insurance to cover the loss of your home and belongings will alleviate at least some of the stress when dealing with such a devastating experience.

For more information on fire mitigation, visit Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District @ http://netellerfire.org.