By R Lawrence
PART 2 (read part 1 here)
By the grace of God, we escaped the “Camp Fire”. The camp fire, are you kidding me? Who is the brilliant bureaucrat that names our disasters? The name implies a small rock enclosed fire that someone could piss out. This was not that. Nonetheless, and not without cost, we survived and the next part of the nightmare began.
We had insurance on our home with Foremost Insurance a division of Farmers Insurance, and to their credit they paid for our home, relocating expenses and our possessions and we had a check within 3 days. Unfortunately, the check was not for market value but for insured value. In order to receive a fair value, we had to document all our losses. Excuse me, how do you document your losses when all your documentation and everything else we owned was destroyed in the fire.
On November 12th I phoned FEMA for help and was connected to a young lady in Washington DC. Four days after the fire and she was unaware that there was a disaster. The deadliest most destructive fire in California history and in the United States since the Cloquet Fire in 1918 and she was unaware of the problem! Come on, give me a break. She referred me to another agent who referred me to another agent and after answering quite a few questions, she dismissed me rather abruptly by telling me okay, someone would be contacting me. On Sunday evening at 9:35 six days later I received a phone call from an agent in Texas. After a brief introduction and having answered a couple of her questions she said she would send me some claim forms that I should fill out. Eight days later I received the forms. I filled them out and sent them in. Fourteen days later I received a letter stating that my claim had been denied. The two reasons my claim was denied was because I first, had insurance and second, that I did not document my losses. I could however apply for a personal loan from the Small Business Administration. Once again, excuse me, but how do you document your losses when all your documentation was destroyed in the fire. Further, if all of us disaster victims borrow money from the SBA, who loans to the small businesses?
I am not a researcher and I have no “sauce” but with just a cursory investigation I know that FEMA was created by Executive Orders and inactivated by Jimmy Carter. They are a part of the Department of Homeland Security, with 2600-2800 full time employees. Their purpose is to justify their existence, provide support and finances to state, county and local bureaucracies, occasionally throwing the victims some crumbs. It is the swamp feeding the swamp with an annual budget of eighteen billion dollars of taxpayer funds.
Who is financing the swamp? I am; you are.
Next came the EPA. Since it was my house, I was responsible to clean up the debris and to clean it up to EPA standards. They graciously were going to accept whatever amount that I had insurance for. If I did not have insurance, they would clean the property up at no cost to me. Just wonderful, another awakening. If I had paid premiums for years, they would gladly take the benefits the insurance company paid, but had I been irresponsible and not purchased insurance they would clean the property up at no cost.
In my dealings with the Insurance Company I found them to be sympathetic and given what it was going to cost them, trust me their sympathy was sincere. In my dealings with both FEMA and the EPA I found them to be cold, unsympathetic, and almost resentful that they had to deal with me. Not personal, just business, business as usual. That concluded November and it left me embittered and angry.
Like in life, and in literature, December brought on winter and the coldness that it brings. The symptoms of my wife’s COPD began to accelerate. Her weight dropped down to 83 lbs and she had begun to retreat into a cocoon of memory. This followed by cognitive impairment made it difficult for her to formulate sentences and remember what had happened and where we lived. Each day like a disease my anger grew lurking just below the surface, festering, ready to break forth exploding at even the slightest provocation.
Complicating things my wife had lost her hearing aids in the fire, so I had to repeat everything I said to her several times. My festering anger would have me yelling at her, and far too often blurting out obscenities. My wife, a beautiful, soft-spoken, loving, giving woman was now terrified of life and looked to me for support and love. She is the love of my life, my soul mate, and I as a Christian man know that my wife and I are one and that I am supposed to love her as the Lord loves me and there, there I was yelling obscenities at her, belittling her and yes Lord forgive me abusing her both mentally and spiritually. Looking at her tear-filled eyes, her head bent in undeserved shame. I realized that my wife and I had died in that damned fire, and that I my had become an angry, hateful old man. During the last 35 years of my life I was a health care provider and thought of myself as a nurturing caregiver, a healer. My life was a lie, I was not any of the above. I had become like a wounded hyena striking out at anyone around me to the point of devouring both my wife and myself.
It was now January, colder, wetter and although miserable it was also cleansing, and we knew that we had to make some changes. We needed to buy our own home and return to the routines we had in Paradise, we needed to heal. Unable to afford the Bay Area we looked for homes in the Chico area, from Yuba City to Red Bluff to Oroville. What we found were homes coming on the market for thousands of dollars above their value and they were selling, selling before you even knew that they were on the market. So much for restoring my faith in human nature.
Having limited finances, we began looking for a home in Oregon. All we could afford was a mobile home in a senior park in Phoenix, Oregon. Phoenix, an appropriate name, Phoenix a significant name as, we too were raising from the ashes.