OJAI, Calif. - Wildfires in Southern California is becoming more common. Insurance is mandatory when trying to rebuild your life after a fire unexpectedly destroys it.
Phil Schmit and his wife remodeled their Ojai home just two weeks before the Thomas fire destroyed it.
“We both have the philosophy to not worry what you can’t control," said Schmit. " And we couldn’t control this.”
Phil and his wife had a few hours to grab what they could take after 20 years of living here.
“We threw a couple changes of clothes into a suitcase, I put important papers into a bag, and I emptied the safe,” said Schmit.
The Schmits weren't strangers to a fire evacuation. Phil thought they'd be back in the morning. Instead the couple returned to a pile of rubble.
“One of the first calls I made was to my insurance company,” said Schmit.
“This is what we say is a total loss," said Matthew Witcher who works at Chubbs insurance. "The first thing that the clients should do is take photos of this area and send it to their adjusters. That allows us to advance this person some money to help cover the cost of food, clothes, and that down payment of a hotel.”
Witcher says with Wildfires becoming more common, planning should start even before a fire ignites.
“I’ve gone through and taken photos of everything in my house and even videos," said Witcher. "It’s an easy way to say this is exactly how my house looked prior to the fire.”
“I took pictures of everything in the house at one time," said Schmit. "I had it on a chip and it was sitting on my desk next to the computer which I did not take.”
If residents do not have photos available they also have the option of making a list of things that were once in their house.
"This is all the information we can use to start putting a value on everything that was in there,” said Witcher.
Witcher also suggests putting those photos of the house on the "cloud" as a backup system outside the house.