WILDFIRES

Elk Ridge Business Denied Insurance Claim Because Fire Wasn’t 1/2-Mile Closer

Oct 31, 2018, 7:56 PM | Updated: 9:04 pm

ELK RIDGE, Utah – Evacuated because of the Pole Creek and Bald Mountain wildfires over the summer, a Utah County business owner said his insurance company denied his claim because they weren’t 2,660 feet closer to the flames.

October 31st is one of those days many of us look forward to. Especially senior citizens at the Elk Ridge Assisted Living in Utah County.

“They were decorating pumpkins yesterday,” said Chris Hermansen, who owns the facility. “We make every holiday fun, because this is what they have to look forward to.”

There are pumpkin and spider decorations throughout the building, but what’s really scary, is how Hermansen says his insurance company is treating him.

“You never would’ve thought that you would have a fire or something like that that made national news,” said Hermansen.

This past September, like everyone else in Elk Ridge, the facility was evacuated because of the Pole Creek Fire.

“We up and evacuated. I got two buses and we evacuated as soon as we could. It was mandatory. You had to leave,” he said.

In all, 28 residents were evacuated and stayed at the Quality Inn in Payson for nine days.

Hermansen says when you count the cost of rooms, salaries for extra staff to take care of residents, and all the little extra supplies that were needed, it cost him about $17,000 out of pocket.

“I contacted my insurance company and they said, ‘Your insurance (policy) should cover this. You have a big policy, it should cover it if the fire is within a mile of the building,’” said Hermansen.

However, that distance designation is the trick.

Hermansen says his insurance company denied him because he was 2,660 feet too far from the fire line, where he would have been covered. That’s just over a half mile.

“I’ve paid religiously on that policy and now when I actually need it?” said Hermansen shaking his head.

Hermansen’s insurance company, Security Insurance out of Spanish Fork, said the matter was out of their hands and wasn’t the company who actually denied his claim.

Security Insurance referred KSL’s call to Auto-Owner Insurance Company in Draper, because Auto-Owners actually holds the policy.

We left messages for the Draper branch manager.

A spokesperson for Auto-Owners based in their corporate office in Michigan returned our call and relayed our message to Scott Michael, who is a Vice President in marketing and sales for the company.

In an email, Michael said, “We have explained to Mr. Hermansen, Elk Ridge Assisted Living’s insurance policy states that damage to property from a covered cause of loss must be within one mile of the premise in order to be eligible to cover his claim. This is standard policy language.”

Hermansen says he understands rules and regulations, but he also says as the only business in Elk Ridge, he is the only one who was denied insurance claims.

“Unfortunately, I’m the only business up here and my business policy is different than a homeowners policy,” he said. “I still couldn’t have said, ‘oh wait, everyone. I have to wait until this thing is this close before I can leave.’ Plus, I wouldn’t have done it based on a policy any way.”

Even still, he’s happy the evacuation went well and no one was hurt.

“I hope this will never happen again, but it had the best outcome possible. Everyone is safe and taken care of and they’re back home,” said Hermansen. “My goal has always been, I want to treat these people like I would treat my mom and dad or my grandma and grandpa.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Hermansen.

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Elk Ridge Business Denied Insurance Claim Because Fire Wasn’t 1/2-Mile Closer