2020 brought one of the most destructive wildfire seasons ever in Oregon, killing 11 people and burning more than 1 million acres. Here's how one independent agent helped a resident make it through the turmoil.
As the Bootleg Fire rages in Southern Oregon, many of the impacts from last year's record-breaking wildfire season are still being felt.
2020 brought one of the most destructive wildfire seasons ever in Oregon. The fires killed at least 11 people, burned more than 1 million acres and destroyed thousands of homes. When the devastating Almeda Fire swept through the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon, the small, nearby towns of Talent and Phoenix were largely destroyed by the intense windblown flames. Thousands of people lost everything.
“Our home and rental units were burned to the ground—we were stunned," recalls one local resident. “For 25 years, we had worked as house painters, living frugally, keeping our expenses down and investing most of our earnings in real estate."
“Overnight, the results of all our years of labor went up in smoke," the resident says. “Thankfully, we had insurance, but we didn't know anything about how the claims process worked."
The resident contacted his insurance agent, Lloyd Williamson, partner at Protectors Insurance in Medford, Oregon, who was already dealing with hundreds of claims. However, Williamson welcomed a relieved and grateful insured into his office and spent over an hour explaining the insurance situation in detail.
While the claims process for the insured's residence proved straightforward, the situation with the rental properties proved more complex. Amid a natural disaster, a global pandemic and skyrocketing construction cost, “Lloyd Williamson was a lifesaver," the insured said. “What had seemed a hopeless situation was transformed into a new beginning."
For more than 10 months—by phone, fax and e-mail— Williamson negotiated with the insurance company, ironing out complications and making sure that the insured received every dollar to which they were entitled.
“One year later, our lifestyle has been restored and we are enjoying the regular income from our replaced rentals," the insured said. “The traumatic Almeda Fire of 2020 seems a distant memory."
After recording over 100 total losses and with the pandemic still ongoing, “the Alameda Fire created a difficult situation for our agency, but we are tough in southern Oregon and we will come out of this stronger on the other side," Williamson says.
“The amount of support from our carriers, community and businesses has been nothing short of amazing," Williamson says. “This has shown us how much our community cares for each other and how closely we are interconnected at a time where many prefer to focus on our differences."
“Joe Hubbard, managing partner at Protector Insurance, and I strongly believe that this is what our agency is all about: Protecting families and businesses from unexpected loss and providing them with the best possible protection with the best service," he adds. “We have learned that when a catastrophe like the Alameda Fire happens, this is when you see the true worth of using a professional agent that stands behind the products they sell."
Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.