Stephen Ellison

North Bay Wildfire Victims Warned About Insurance Scammers

As two suspected looters were arraigned in Sonoma County court Tuesday, the state insurance commissioner warned of other types of thieves preying on wildfire victims.

The latest threat to homeowners who’ve already lost everything are insurance scam artists, according to California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Jones said fire victims should be wary of unlicensed contractors and public insurance adjusters who offer to help in exchange for a percentage of their insurance money.

"We urge you to be cautious before you sign any contract," Jones said. "You have to be very careful that you’re not being taken advantage of."

Mechanical engineer Matt Condie sifted through the ashes of his Coffey Park home Tuesday, searching for his wife’s wedding ring. His home was one of 6,500 burned by wildfires in Sonoma County.

A few blocks away, the National Guard was keeping out nonresidents, but those posts were about to pull out. Condie said he understands.

"There’s nothing but scorched earth in here, so there’s not a lot that I’m going to be taking out of here," he said.

Santa Rosa fire Capt. Bryon Reid witnessed looting on the very night of the fire.

"You didn’t see much of it, but it was for sure there," he said.

Reid fumed at the thought of unscrupulous contractors and adjusters in the area.

"It kind of brings a new level of anger out of you for people trying to capitalize on people who've absolutely lost everything and are having the worst day of their lives," Reid said.

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