My office is smoked out, clients are calling me

My office is smoked out, clients are calling me | Insurance Business America

Texas agent talks to IBA as near-record wildfire spreads

Catastrophe & Flood

Ryan Smith

A wildfire sweeping through the Texas Panhandle is now the second largest blaze in the state’s history.

The fast-moving blaze has caused power outages and forced evacuations across the area.

Timothy Cortez, agent and owner of Cortez Insurance Agency in Amarillo, Texas, said that while the fire itself has not yet reached the city, its effects have.

“Amarillo got hit with the smoke,” Cortez told IBA. “My office is smoked out. I live in Canyon, about 10 minutes south of Amarillo, and our electricity was out; smoke was everywhere. I had some clients calling me yesterday saying, ‘Man, it’s smokey out here.’”

The blaze is part of a cluster of fires that burned out of control and threatened rural towns in the area, according to an Associated Press report. The largest of the fires – which as of Wednesday had grown to more than half the size of the state of Rhode Island – has spread into parts of neighboring Oklahoma and was still uncontained as of Wednesday morning.

Officials were starting to assess the damage on Wednesday, and warned it could be severe. The people evacuated from the area are likely “not prepared for what they’re going to see if they pull into town,” Hutchinson County Emergency Management spokesperson Deidra Thomas said in a social media livestream. Thomas said the small town of Fritch, which appears to have been particularly hard-hit, is still unsafe for people to return.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot has issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties, the AP reported.

Cortez told IBA that he recommended his clients stay prepared for emergencies such as wildfires.

“What I recommend doing is, number one, even if something’s not coming your way, always have a go bag ready,” he said. “Number two: if you do have to flee your home, keep your receipts. Keep track of all of that. My agency has loss-of-use coverage on everything, and loss-of-use will cover those reimbursements. So keep track of what you’re spending if you have to go to a hotel or something.”

Cortez also stressed that insureds needed to make sure their coverage was kept up-to-date.

“We always talk to the clients to see if there are any updates, if they’ve done any improvements (on their homes),” Cortez said. “Make sure your agent is aware of those things if you’re shopping around, for calculating replacement costs. If you’re getting a few quotes and they’re all in the same vicinity, chances are it’s being done right.”

Thursday’s weather may provide a ray of hope, with a forecast of cooler temperatures, less wind and a possibility of rain, the AP reported.

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